CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada labor unions and Democrats are upset about two bills being considered by the state legislature that would allow local governments to avoid the damaging restrictions of collective bargaining.

One bill, AB280, would allow municipalities and school boards to opt out of collective bargaining once existing union contracts have expired, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Another bill, AB 182, would prevent union collective bargaining agreements from stopping layoffs during a budget crisis and prevent employee seniority from being a factor in layoff decisions.

Labor costs, specified by union contracts, typically comprise a huge percentage of local government spending. Supporters of AB280 note that that union contracts keep labor costs high, even during tough economic times, when municipalities and schools must cut spending.

Public sector unions are notorious for refusing to make contract concessions when government revenues sag during recessions. That forces employers to make unnecessary layoffs that result in reductions in public services.

Union critics note that more senior union members have always been willing to accept layoffs of younger colleagues in order to maintain their full salaries and benefits. They also argue that layoffs based on seniority prevent government employers from retaining the best personnel.

“It was heartbreaking so see so many young women and men lose their jobs because there were not enough reductions in salaries and in benefits to meet the reductions in revenues,” state Assemblyman Erv Nelson, the sponsor of AB280, was quoted as saying by the AP.

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