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Attempt to Curtail Wages, Overtime Pay Thwarted by 200 Protesters in NV

Over 200 union workers stood outside the Nevada legislature in protest as the Nevada Assembly Government Affairs Committee debated a proposed law that would make drastic changes to the state’s prevailing wage standards.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Assemblymen Pat Hickey, would change the threshold for prevailing wages to kick in from $100,000 to $1.5 million, an astronomical jump. AB318 would also change overtime standards to disable overtime pay for days that run beyond 8 hours unless a 40 hour workweek is worked. The bill must pass the committee before April 12 to be up for a vote by the legislature. Democrats who would presumably stop the anti-worker bill in its tracks if given the chance hold a 27-15 majority in the Assembly where the bill would wind up next.  

During the meeting, inflamatory comments by bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Cresent Hardy angered many other members of the committee. The Assistant Minrotiy Leader implied that construction workers spend money wildly and that the ‘additional’ income from prevailing wages does not go “into the employees' pocket; it goes to the national unions.”

100 members of the Nevada building trades took part in the protest.

Victor Patrick, a steel worker who traveled from Las Vegas to voice his opposition, told the Nevada Appeal:

“If you didn’t have prevailing wages, you’d have low skilled workers and you’d have shoddy work. This bill is just ridiculous.”

Al Martinez, a lobbyist for We Are Nevada, agreed:

“When you go below the prevailing wage you can’t survive on that salary.  Taking away the prevailing wage is going to affect everything.”

Assemblyman Hickey just so happens to be a non-union contractor. He claims that he is putting this bill into motion to help lower construction costs for school districts. However, it is obvious to all of those who protested that he is doing so in order to help he and his peers legally pay workers less.

Hickey told the Nevada Appeal:

The construction business, and I am part of that group, is looking for more jobs,” Hickey said. “General contractors will bid in a way to get their workers paid and still get the job done.”

Danny Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO and a former assemblyman himself, argued that AB318′s approval would result in a significant drop in employer-sponsored health care. This drop would inevitably leave the state on the hook for these costs via Medicaid:

“What you are really doing here is shifting the burden from private employers to the state of Nevada to take care of their employees.”

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