During the last legislative session, Nevada lawmakers approved SB135, which recognizes the collective bargaining rights of state workers.
Since the law passed, three groups have filed to create unions – correctional officers, mental health workers and now, the Nevada Highway Patrol.
The state’s Employee-Management Relations Board still has to adopt a process for state worker unions to be approved. But once that step is complete, representatives from the Highway Patrol expect their association to be approved, meaning they can negotiate for higher salaries and better benefits.
Paul Klein is with the Nevada Highway Patrol Association, the organization that will file to become the agency’s first union.
“The issue is really pay disparity between the state employees and the local employees," Klein said, "Now, that state employees can collectively bargain they can go back to the table and say, 'we are drastically underpaid compared to our counterparts and we would like to get some paid parity in order to fix that issue.'”
He said that local law enforcement officers like Las Vegas Metro Police and Reno Police negotiate contracts with city and county officials every few years but NHP hasn't been able to do that.
At first glance, it might seem like taxes will have to go up to pay for higher salaries for NHP troopers. Klein said that actually may not be the case.
“We actually contend that there may be a cost-saving to the state and here’s why: The turnover rate for law enforcement is extremely high. So once you train somebody you bring somebody in through the academy… that costs the state $60,000 to $80,000 to train them up… that officer… is leaving within two years to go work for a local police force where they can much more,” Klein said.
He said if a trooper is paid more then he or she will stick around for 20 years instead of two and the state will have to pay less for training.
Klein said he can't speak to what tax increase might come from the collective bargaining of other state employees.
The collective bargaining unit - if approved by the labor board and the governor's office - would also cover game wardens, state park rangers, parole and probation officers and university police officers.
Paul Klein, Nevada Highway Patrol Association
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