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Nevada AFSCME members speak out on budget changes

Photo by the Nevada Legislature.
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Nevada AFSCME members speak out on budget changes
Pictured: Harry Schiffman and Daphne Deleon. Member photos by AFSCME Local 4041.

LAS VEGAS – Members of AFSCME Local 4041 are voicing their objections to the Nevada governor’s plan to furlough state employees.

They mobilized last week to share their thoughts with the Nevada Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee about possible state budget changes due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The committee did not act on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proposed furloughs during Friday’s virtual meeting, but AFSCME members nevertheless sprung to action to oppose the plan.

“I join with thousands of Nevada state employees in demanding that we have a seat at the table where decisions are made about our working conditions and lives,” Shamond Price, a highway equipment mechanic, told the committee.

AFSCME members spoke at the hearing with a clear message – state workers demand to have a say in any changes to their working conditions and any changes made to the budget that affect their lives.

“State employees know our jobs best and we are prepared to be part of the solution to help the state navigate through tough choices. When our state falls on hard times, state employees are always on the menu, but now, we demand a seat at the table,” said Harry Schiffman, an electrician at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and president of Local 4041.

AFSCME members from various departments shared how budget changes would negatively impact the services their communities rely on to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As our state begins this road to recovery, now is not the time to inflict more harm on our communities by cutting services, or by laying off or furloughing the very workers who have provided our communities with hope,” Olivia Henson, a family services specialist, said in  a written statement.

Already operating under tight budgets, AFSCME members shared how further budget cuts will make it harder for state employees to do their jobs.

"In the years since the great recession, we’ve continued to be understaffed and have gone without equipment upgrades. In fact, many times cuts to public services meant we can go months without fixing basic equipment like light bulbs and door locks if they break,” said Joe Roberts, a corrections officer and president of the Big Meadows Chapter of Local 4041.

Even though state employees continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic without getting sick, they are not immune from the economic impact that may follow.

“Nevada still has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, laying off or furloughing state employees will only add to these numbers, putting our state further behind on the road to recovery,” Daphne Deleon, an education project manager and president of the Washoe Chapter of Local 4041 said in a written statement.

While AFSCME members face a long road, they know that together they are much stronger to make changes.

“My co-workers and I have chosen to organize as AFSCME Local 4041, and it is the state’s duty to respect our choice and allow us our right to use our collective voice to have a say when changes are made that affect our work and our lives,” said Angela Longman, a developmental support technician.

Last June, Sisolak signed into law a historic bill granting 20,000 Nevada state workers the right to collectively bargain. That marked the largest expansion of collective bargaining rights for state workers anywhere in the U.S. in 16 years.

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