Mental & behavioral health workers seek collective bargaining with state

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State workers file for recognition as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) with the Government Employee-Management Relations Board of the State of Nevada. (Photo: AFSCME Local 4041)
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State workers file for recognition as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) with the Government Employee-Management Relations Board of the State of Nevada. (Photo: AFSCME Local 4041)

On Friday, mental and behavioral health service workers in Nevada became the second group of public employees to file with the state for collective bargaining recognition as members of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The group includes developmental support technicians, certified nursing assistants, mental health technicians, child care workers, pharmacy technicians and related jobs.

“Workplace safety is a top priority for health care workers in Nevada as well as across the country,” said Ken Edmonds, a certified developmental support tech at Desert Regional Center. “That’s why healthcare workers have come together as ASFME to ensure our collective voice is heard by our employer when it comes to safety on the job without sacrificing the quality of care that we provide.”

The filing comes after bill extending collective bargaining rights to more than 20,000 state workers was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak late during the last legislative session. The original bill was amended to give the governor the authority to effectively veto negotiated pay increases settled through arbitration if the governor determines the state doesn’t have enough money.

Still, supporters argue the bill will go far to give state employees the ability to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. Some state employees in the mental health system have complained there is a lack of recourse when faced with unsafe work conditions and retaliatory actions.

“Over the years our employer has taken steps that has made our work more dangerous,” said Edmonds. “Staff has little say in policy changes that affect our safety on the job or how we provide care to some of the most vulnerable communities in Nevada.”

The group now joins Nevada’s prison guards who were the first to file with the state for recognition as members of AFSCME.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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