LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Nevada Assembly passed Senate Bill 4 with a 31-10 vote after a hearing that lasted five hours. The controversial bill blocks a citizen from suing a business, except for hospitals, if they contract COVID-19.
UPDATE: Governor Sisolak held a press conference on Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. for a SB4 virtual signing ceremony.
WATCH VIRTUAL SIGNING BELOW:
But not all agree with the liability legislation.
The Nevada Workers Coalition issued this statement after its passage:
“We, the undersigned coalition of organizations, express our grave disappointment with the passage of S.B. 4 and the failure of Nevada legislators to listen to and act upon concerns raised by the groups and individuals listed below. It’s astonishing that a body controlled by a majority of legislators who claim to fight for working families would vote to pass a bill that echoes the corporation-driven demands of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and support a piece of legislation that gives businesses room to do the bare minimum when it comes to worker safety.
To be crystal clear, the provisions of this bill that do enact safety standards for some workers, particularly those in the hospitality industry are commendable and fully supported by members of this coalition. Had this bill included safety provisions for all of Nevada workers, and did not include unnecessary immunity provisions we would have supported S.B. 4 wholeheartedly. Instead, this bill fails to protect ALL workers in Nevada. This is blatantly unfair and especially disrespectful to those other workers left out of this bill who have already died as a result of being an essential worker.
While we support our Culinary Union brothers and sisters, and applaud their hard-earned worker protections, we remain disappointed and discouraged that the legislature ignored our plea for parity by not including our suggested amendments.
While our preferred outcome did not come to pass this Special Session, we will not give up fighting for what is in the best interest of workers and their families. We will work with the Governor, legislative leadership, and members of the executive branch to find solutions that will hold businesses to account for not keeping their workers safe and prevent more needless deaths of workers who are catching this horrible virus while doing their job. It’s unfortunately clear as ever that the influence of corporations takes precedence over the lives of working families in Carson City.”Nevada Workers Coalition
The coalition encompasses the following organizations:
- ACLU of Nevada
- Battle Born Progress
- Care in Action
- Chispa Nevada
- Faith Organizing Alliance
- IATSE Local 720
- Make It Work Nevada
- Make the Road Nevada
- Mi Familia Vota
- Nevada AFL-CIO
- Nevada Conservation League
- Nevada Justice Association
- Nevada State Education Association
- Nevada Women’s Lobby
- Northern Nevada Building Trades
- Northern Nevada Central Labor Council
- Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
- Reno Sparks NAACP Branch 31112
- Retired Public Employees of Nevada
- SEIU Local 1107
- Southern Nevada Building Trades
- Southern Nevada Central Labor Council
- Teamsters Local 986
- UFCW Local 711
Geoconda Argüello-Kline of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 wrote positive words about the passage but also called for the extension of “similar protections to all workers in Nevada”:
“The Culinary Union applauds Governor Sisolak, Speaker Jason Frierson, Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, and the Nevada Legislature on the passage of Senate Bill 4 “Adolfo Fernandez Bill” which will protect over 280,000 hospitality workers in Clark County and Washoe.
The worker provisions in the Senate Bill 4 are the result of five months of the Culinary Union having thousands of one-on-one conversations with workers, two different car caravans on the Las Vegas Strip with over 10,000 Nevadans participating, dozens of public comments before the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission, and drafting, researching, and consulting with experts on the health and safety language in the Bill.
Senate Bill 4 is a first-in-the-nation legislation that will protect all workers in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas and Reno – wall-to-wall, front-of-the house and back-of-the house, union and non-union, worker and manager – from the Bellagio to Motel 6.
Behind every worker in this state there is a family and the Culinary Union is proud to have won the best safety standards for all workers in the state’s largest industry. We urge elected leaders to continue working towards extending similar protections to all workers in Nevada. When workers are protected, our entire community – from the hospitality industry to customers and locals are protected.
The Culinary Union also thanks the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) for their leadership during this pandemic. We look forward to working with Dr. Fermin Leguen and the SNHD team to ensure resort workers are protected.
Adolfo Fernandez, contracted COVID-19 after being employed as a utility porter on the Las Vegas Strip, and passed away in late June.
“I feel happy and relieved that the bill has passed honoring my dad’s last wishes to have stronger safety guidelines for hospitality workers,” said Irma Fernandez, daughter of Adolfo Fernandez. “I wish he was here in person to witness this. If my dad was here, he would be so happy and grateful of all the work that has been done to protect workers and their loved ones.”Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of Culinary Union Local 226
SB4 offers liability protections to businesses, government agencies, including school districts, and nonprofits.
Critics claim it does not go far enough.
“Our frontline workers deserve the same protections as any other business does,” said Karla Perez, regional vice president with Universal Health Services.
The bill excludes certain medical facilities. Some argue that may create unforeseen consequences for many Nevada hospitals.
“We’ve been told that they’re afforded medical malpractice, but the two are not remotely connected,” explained Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. “The hospitals are a business just like any other organization, and so, they should be afforded the same kind of protections.”
Perez said they want to open hospitals to visitors, but without the protections, that won’t happen.
Another critic included the largest teachers union in Nevada, Clark County Education Association (CCEA), who says it limits the rights of those who get sick at school. One union even went so far as to call it a “poison apple.”
“We have two major concerns,” said John Vellardita, CCEA executive director.
The union wants Nevada lawmakers to include legislation that protects CCSD staff. CCEA wanted to add language focusing on the district to the bill.
Several members of the union submitted public comment.
“We don’t agree with freeing an employer, in this case, the school district, free from any kind of liability exposure,” said Vellardita, “if in fact they don’t have some kind of robust safety testing and contact tracing program in place.”
The bill outlines cleaning standards for hotels and casinos, as well as offers certain protections for workers. CCEA wants legislators to also extend those to staff at school districts.
“It’s very vague for other employees and other work sites,” Vellardita stated. He also told us the union submitted recommendations and will “weigh our options” if certain requests are not met.