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Securing workplace rights through a contract is the essence of the Nevada union difference

Photo credit: Getty Images
By Cyndy Hernandez ·

LAS VEGAS – To Jason O’Dea, a senior correctional officer in Nevada, securing a voice on the job by negotiating a contract is the very definition of the union difference.

After decades of fighting for a voice at work, O’Dea and other members of AFSCME Local 4041 are celebrating their first contract, which they ratified recently by an overwhelming margin.

“Having a contract means that our rights as employees and workplace policies are laid out in one place that’s easy to understand and easy to follow, for both staff and management. And having collective bargaining means we can have a say in our workplace policies, management cannot just change things at their will,” said O’Dea, a bargaining team member.

He called the contract “the biggest highlight of the union difference.”

“As a union member in a certified bargaining unit, we had a say in ensuring COs are treated with respect on the job. Being able to have a say in our wages is huge – before, the state gave us whatever raise they wanted, and now, we can negotiate for our pay,” he said.

Before winning collective bargaining rights in 2019, workplace policies were changed often, especially as new directors or senior staff were brought in.

For corrections officers, O’Dea said, that meant policies would vary from correctional facility to facility, creating unequal workplaces for people doing the same job. Now, staff look forward to the standardization of workplace policies, as directed through their statewide contract and a supplemental, department-specific contract that will be negotiated later this year.

“This first contract won’t change everything at once, but it does put us on a path to improve our working conditions, to ensure that our rights in the workplace are respected, and in having input from staff before changes are made. It’s a great feeling to be part of this process as a bargaining team member and to be the change I want to see as a union member,” said O’Dea.

This first contract for Nevada state employees includes important provisions such as codifying shift and post bidding into workplace policy, filling vacancies by prioritizing seniority and experience, and guaranteeing a 3% wage increase for 2022. Though the contract does not drastically change workplace policies for state employees, it makes management more accountable for those policies.

Workers in noncertified bargaining units got a 1% wage increase for 2022 and will not be covered under the policies and provisions of the contract. Workers in those noncertified bargaining units are actively organizing to certify their bargaining units.

“The goal of Local 4041 members is to certify these additional bargaining units. We want all state employees to benefit from collective bargaining and to join us at the bargaining table,” O’Dea said. “But that will take workers seeing that to build our strength as a union and make positive changes for all agencies and departments, the first step is to become an AFSCME member. We are in this together.”

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