With unions under assault by the Trump administration, the right-wing Supreme Court, and Republicans at the state-level, Nevada's Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday signed into law a slate of pro-worker bills that included legislation giving public sector workers the right to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.
"Americans are looking for an answer to a rigged economy that favors the wealthy, and it's clear that they are turning to unions in growing numbers."
—Lee Saunders, AFSCME
"This is a historic day for state employees and all Nevadans, as collective bargaining rights will mean a voice on the job to make meaningful changes in our workplaces and communities," said Harry Schiffman, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 4041, which represents over 17,000 Nevada public workers.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders applauded Sisolak for enshrining collective bargaining rights for public employees into Nevada law and said it's "time to make it easier all across the country for working people to join in strong unions."
"By signing this bill, Governor Sisolak demonstrates his understanding of the importance of giving working people a seat at the table and the voice on the job they deserve," Saunders said in a statement. "Americans are looking for an answer to a rigged economy that favors the wealthy, and it's clear that they are turning to unions in growing numbers."
In a press release, AFSCME said the legislation—SB 135—will give over 20,000 Nevada state workers collective bargaining rights, which the union described as "the largest expansion" of that crucial workplace power anywhere in the country over the last 16 years.
"Today marks yet another massive win for working people and the labor movement as union momentum continues to grow across the country," said AFSCME.
With #SB135 now law, state workers have a seat at the table for the first time in NV history. We are empowering Nevada’s public service workers to have a stronger voice for safer, stronger and healthier communities. Thank you @Local4041 @AFSCME for your partnership! pic.twitter.com/fAQybPjNB5
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) June 12, 2019
Collective bargaining for Nevada state employees becomes law! We now have a seat at the table to make the changes we need in the workplace to improve our communities and lives. #SB135 #NVLeg #1u pic.twitter.com/xRtB37npJo
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— AFSCME Local 4041 (@Local4041) June 12, 2019
In addition to S.B. 135, Sisolak on Wednesday also signed into law bills to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $12 an hour by 2024 and require all businesses with over 50 employees to guarantee paid sick leave.
Last week, Sisolak signed legislation that would make Nevada the first state to bar employers from refusing to hire a prospective employee due to a positive test for marijuana.
The slate of pro-worker bills were hailed as powerful evidence of what union strength can accomplish at the state level, even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 2018 ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME, which was viewed as an existential threat to public-sector unions.
"Across the country, more workers are coming together to demand a level playing field through unions," AFSCME said in a statement on Wednesday. "Grocery store workers, teachers, public service workers, journalists, and hotel and food service workers are joining in a wave of activism and new organizing drives."
"Unions are enjoying their highest level of public support in 15 years and presidential candidates have embraced unions at a level not seen in years," AFSCME added. "It is clear that unions are seeing increasing grassroots and political momentum, and AFSCME will continue to pursue a growth agenda in Nevada and across the country."
As Saunders put it in an interview with In These Times following the high court's Janus ruling, "Anyone writing our obituary is going to be sorely disappointed."