Clark County suspends all union contracts as part of emergency declaration

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University Medical Center's main entrance. (UMC photo)
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University Medical Center’s main entrance. (UMC photo)

Note: This story was updated with information regarding Clark County firefighters.

The union representing health care workers at University Medical Center and a variety of public sector workers says Clark County manager Yolanda King has unilaterally suspended contracts for all bargaining units. 

The action also suspends contracts with Clark County firefighters, according to county spokesman Erik Pappa.

“We are thankful for our employees’ selfless dedication to public service and appreciate all that they do. But current emergency conditions require that we suspend all collective bargaining agreements to allow us to more quickly change employees’ schedules and take other steps to make us all safer while providing critical services to our community,” Pappa said in a statement to the Current. “This was one of many necessary measures that we have used to make the County more responsive during this extraordinary time.”

The Declaration of Emergency notes that it “seeks to assist the County, its agencies, employees and residents to stabilize and more efficiently respond to emerging conditions related to response and recovery to the COVID-19-related issues.”  The Declaration says “that certain administrative functions require flexibility in staffing levels and assignments normally addressed in collective bargaining agreements and merit personnel systems.”

“Ms. King’s decision to strip away collective bargaining agreements for thousands of workers is dangerous and reactive,” SEIU Executive Director Grace Vergara-Mactal said in a news release. “With Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in Nevada and across the country, our frontline heroes now must contend with doing their jobs safely, while also fearing for their livelihood.”

Union official Brian O. Shepherd says King acted without the authorization of Clark County Commissioners. 

“The county claims it was the governor’s declaration of emergency,” Commissioner Tick Segerblom said. “Maintaining employee morale is vital during this crisis. Employees must be treated fairly and honestly.”

“This decision is unacceptable – a betrayal and blatant attack against frontline healthcare and public workers,” Vergara-Mactal said. “SEIU Local 1107 members will not stand on the sidelines. We demand that the Clark County Board of Commissioners take immediate action and reverse this attack on working families.”

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa did not respond to a request for comment on the suspension but asked for a copy of the union’s press release. 

Pappa did not say whether the county can or intends to suspend contracts with Clark County firefighters or Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. 

“The employer can insist that we work in unsafe working conditions and out of fear of the inability to take care of our workers, we are put at risk along with the safety of our patients,” longtime UMC nurse Mike Collins said in a statement to the Current.  

In addition to UMC, SEIU represents public sector workers throughout Clark County government — the Southern Nevada Health District; the Water Reclamation District; the District Attorney, Public Defender and courts; McCarran International Airport; Department of Family Services; Regional Transportation Commission; the Southern Nevada Housing Authority; and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. 

SEIU’s contracts spell out pay and benefits and protect employees from being fired without cause. Employees in Nevada can be terminated at-will.

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.