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Workers Rally at Nevada Legislature While Prevailing Wage-Limiting Bill is Discussed

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A wage attack born in the Nevada Senate brought workers of all types together in protest on Thursday, the Las Vegas Sun reports:

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.

Ideology has driven the measure, which seeks to remove the requirement that prevailing wages be paid on school construction projects. Republican hardliners reliably insist it will save taxpayers money. They comfortably ignore that those “savings” will come at the Nevada worker’s expense.

Democrats in the legislature, though, are brewing their response using a bit of traditionally GOP syrum. They say the bill, which would also enable bond rollover, “imposes a tax burden without voter permission, and in spite of a 2012 vote in Clark County against the proposal.” More from Nevada Appeal:

“You’re sponsoring a bill which essentially is a tax increase,” Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo said. “At the end of the day, voters are going to say, ‘What are they doing up in the Legislature? We voted this down, but yet they’re going to side-skirt the whole issue, fleece the voters.’”

For workers rights advocates such as unions, SB119 is a matter of life and death for wages, standards, and local hiring.

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.

The fact that the bond rollovers have been coupled with the prevailing wage attack (the less popular of the two ideas), has enraged onlookers as well:

Democratic lawmakers asked whether removing the provisions would put more contractors on public assistance or force them to work two jobs. They also asked why the school construction bond issue was bundled with a less-palatable prevailing wage measure.

“We do not need to pit our kids against our parents,” Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said. “If you want parents to participate in the school, you better give them the opportunity to have one job.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican establishment is making a concerted effort to dismantle the prevailing wage nationwide. Since making electoral gains in November, bills to limit or repeal the prevailing wage have advanced or been discussed in nearly a dozen states.


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