LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — SEIU Local 1107 said a move to suspend contracts by Clark County and UMC affects around 9,000 workers. Both entities pointed to the public health crisis as their reasoning.
Union leaders said contracts protect workers, but Clark County and UMC said contracts can interfere with their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Union leaders also revealed some workers have tested positive for coronavirus. They’re concerned about what they refer to as a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for county and hospital workers on the front lines.
They noted without a collective bargaining agreement, workers are concerned seniority goes out the window, their jobs could be cut and protections aren’t in place.
Union leaders claimed, for example, child welfare workers don’t have the proper PPE when they visit homes.
“When you’re having to go into these homes without knowing that that family has been around somebody that’s COVID-19 positive, and you’re having to question, and basically you’re making that situation more dangerous and without that proper equipment to make sure that they’re being protected, it’s awful,” said Brenda Marzan, president of SEIU Local 1107.
Grace Vergara-Mactal, the union’s executive director, said their members have been both resilient and flexible, putting their own health and families at risk
Union leaders said they received letters a couple of days ago from Clark County Manager Yolanda King and UMC, saying collective bargaining contracts needed to be suspended.
They’re asking commissioners to step in and are calling for Yolanda King’s resignation if the decision is not reversed.
They’re also threatening legal action.
UMC sent the I-Team a statement explaining decisions need to be made quickly, and they don’t have time to confer with union leaders during a public health crisis. They said that is why contracts are suspended. The statement is as follows:
“In response to this unprecedented public health crisis, UMC made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend our contract with SEIU 1107. This emergency provision under Nevada law allows us to quickly address urgent and vital operational needs. This includes taking action that would normally require us contractually to “meet and confer” and negotiate terms with union leaders.
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of this global pandemic, we simply do not have time to delay urgent decisions. The safety of our patients and employees is of the utmost importance to us, and we have a responsibility to ensure UMC’s rapid response to pressing issues. For example, this decision allowed us to immediately authorize telework and delayed work, with full pay for employees. This is an important step in promoting social distancing among our team members.
UMC’s entire leadership team has great respect for SEIU’s members and leaders. SEIU leadership has been and will continue to be great partners with our hospital. The temporary suspension of our contract with SEIU 1107 simply allows for us to quickly address emerging issues in the urgent manner that is required during this truly unprecedented time.”
Clark County also sent us a statement, which reads:
“Clark County made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend our employee contracts because of the unprecedented health emergency facing our community. This emergency provision under Nevada law allows us to respond quickly and efficiently in addressing very important operational needs across the organization without having to negotiate details with union leaders.
For example, employees who typically ride together in a vehicle or departments which have had employees in close proximity, adjustments like flexible worksites, flexible work hours and increased physical distance between employees have been used. Making these changes would normally require a lengthier process provided for in the collective bargaining agreement. It is important that we not delay critical decisions such as this to protect the public and our employees.
During this emergency, the County has been in regular contact with the SEIU leadership, listening to their concerns and addressing them to the extent possible. Purchasing and distributing PPE is one of the concerns expressed by the SEIU and addressing it remains one of our highest priorities.
Clark County’s leadership team has great respect for our employees and their selfless dedication to public service and we fully appreciate all that they do.”