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Nevada Voices: State Workers Explain Why They Need Collective Bargaining Rights

Photo Credit: AFSCME Local 4041
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LAS VEGAS – About 20,000 state workers in Nevada are close to getting collective bargaining rights for the first time ever after fighting for those rights for two decades.

They are the only public service workers in Nevada who are barred from negotiating over workplace safety and conditions, salary and benefits. Senate Bill 135 (SB 135), which would change that, is advancing in the Nevada Legislature.

State workers who joined together through AFSCME Local 4041 testified at the initial hearing for SB 135 and are continuing to make their voices heard.

In Their Own Words

Here are a few state workers – all members of Local 4041 – explaining in their own words why they need collective bargaining rights:

Valerie Osborn, family services specialist

My job is to help families get back on their feet after hitting hard times. I treat people with respect and compassion; I understand that when people come to us, they may be at their lowest and are stressed about their financial situations. Unfortunately, sometimes these stresses can make for a tense and hostile work environment for staff and other families that come to us for assistance. 

My colleagues and I would use our voice in negotiations to improve workplace safety. Our offices are not secure and the quality of the security guards the contractor provides can vary. Sometimes, we are not able to obtain assistance for a family, and some staff have received threats or have had clients act violently when this occurs. 

We want to be able to provide a non-threatening environment for families seeking assistance while having a safe workplace for staff. Collective bargaining will allow us to accomplish this by having a voice on the job.

Valerie Osborn

Victor Avena, carpenter

My co-workers and I enjoy working for the state, making sure our roads, parks and public facilities are safe and well maintained. When things are broken, we fix them. There are processes for everything, and we make sure to follow through all the steps to ensure all our products are safe. 

But when we have an issue in the workplace, the current grievance process does not fix all our issues. The current process gives much discretion to our supervisors and management, leaving some workplace issues unresolved. This creates low morale in the workplace when staff feel like their voice is not heard or when workplace issues are arbitrarily dismissed. 

Collective bargaining will allow us to work with management to create a fair due process system that is agreed upon by both sides. This will give workers confidence in knowing that raising workplace issues will lead to solutions. We deserve to be treated with fairness and respect when raising workplace issues.

Victor Avena

Deborah Hinds, administrative assistant

Administrators tend to be the type of people who will always be the first to take on more to help the team. But at a certain point, we need to advocate for ourselves and that is why I support collective bargaining.

Our agency is severely understaffed, and I’ve been supporting two different buildings for the last few months. It is not easy for me to provide the quality support services needed to keep my office running smoothly. Admins are being shuffled around to address problems and backlogs, but not having enough staff is causing these problems and backlogs we are being moved around to take care of. 

Collective bargaining will allow us to have a voice to advocate for our working conditions. We set the tone in our office by treating everyone with respect and kindness, and we deserve the same treatment from our employer. We want to create well-run facilities where every client can have quality care in a timely manner, and collective bargaining will allow us to get there.

Deborah Hinds

Timothy Provost, social worker

I work to find homes for kids in rural Nevada. The issue I’d like to address through collective bargaining is understaffing. There are simply too many kids in need of homes and not enough staff to place them. It’s a very stressful job, and for every two people who are brought on, three people leave.

To us, this Senate Bill 135 means an open line of communication with management, making sure we’re working as a team and that our employer has our backs. That kind of support would go a long way in helping staff retention, which would allow us to be more efficient in finding families for Nevada’s children. 

State employees care about our communities. We deserve a voice on the job to ensure we have the resources, including proper staffing, to provide healthy and safe homes for all kids.

Timothy Provost

Veronica Brown-Davis, corrections officer

I’ve been a correctional officer for almost 15 years, and there is much I have learned that I know would help us have a safer workplace. We face daily challenges when it comes to our safety, with simple issues that I know could easily be addressed but often go ignored because it is not a priority for facility managers.

With collective bargaining, I know our safety will not be taken for granted and longtime experienced officers like myself will have the ability to share valuable input to find solutions to common problems.

Our voices at the table will help to ensure facility safety is front and center, and that we have the resources we need to make sure we get home at night.

Veronica Brown-Davis