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September 18, 2019

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Construction workers rally against eliminating prevailing wage

Prevailing Wage

Kyle Roerink

Construction workers rally outside the Nevada Senate on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, as lawmakers consider a bill that would eliminate the prevailing wage requirement for some state building jobs.

Updated Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 | 12:27 p.m.

Nevada construction workers stormed the Legislature today to oppose a bill that would remove the requirement to pay the prevailing wage for some state building jobs, arguing that it would cut into their paychecks.

Union and nonunion workers overwhelmed hallways and committee rooms. They marched outside, waved banners and filled committee rooms to watch lawmakers vet SB119, one of the most controversial bills in this year's legislative session.

The bill has divided Democrats and Republicans in Carson City.

The bill is making its way along partisan lines to a final floor vote in the coming days if Republicans, who hold majorities in the Legislature, don’t make any changes.

But calls to revise the bill — which would eliminate the prevailing-wage requirement on school construction jobs — are strong.

Prevailing wage rates are set by the Nevada Labor Commission and preserve a common pay standard for a certain job in a specific county.

Conservatives supporting the bill say the prevailing wage goes against fair-market principles and eats into state coffers.

To strip the prevailing wage provision is an attempt to cut construction expenses while lawmakers figure out how the state will pay for new schools that Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to see built.

GOP Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, a bill sponsor, testified that the law would allow the state to build more schools because it would have more money.

Local officials estimate the bill could result in the funding of at least seven new schools in Clark County in the next two years.

Another portion of the law allows school boards to sidestep voter approval to seek bond measures to pay for new schools. That portion has consensus among lawmakers. Democrats want it as a separate bill.

Lawmakers have cited conflicting studies and statistics on the impact of the prevailing wage rules. But today, they took second stage to the construction workers who arrived at the Legislature.

The workers criticized conservative lawmakers, saying Republicans want to take wages from them.

Holding two dogs on a leash and a sign that said, “Nevada needs good jobs,” Jana Kopko, a union member with Operating Engineers Local 3, said the bill would take money out of her pocket.

While watching the debate in an overflow room, Randy Canale, a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 350, said the fight is about “the guarantee that the work is done by Nevada workers and skilled labor.”

Opponents say eliminating the prevailing wage would result in the hiring of less-skilled, out-of-state workers.

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