Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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workplace column:

Labor Day — and politics — brings out top leaders

More than a thousand workers gathered for an afternoon of union solidarity on the eve of Labor Day, even as the economic recession continues to claim jobs.

Union members gathered in downtown Las Vegas to celebrate Labor Day, giving politicians an opportunity to do some early stomping.

The event, with snow cones, hot dogs and upbeat music, drew workers and their families on a warm summer afternoon to a dirt lot, and several Democratic politicians took to the stage to celebrate Labor Day and the workers it represents, as well as put in a good word or two for their fellow politicians (coincidentally running for office).

Walking around the lot, my shoes were dusty and filled with dirt.

A burly Teamster laughed and gestured toward the politicians who showed up in their clean, pressed suits. He made the point that the workers on the lot were used getting their shoes — and hands — dirty.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a group of more than a thousand union members that “we have to do card check. Reid was speaking about the embattled legislation that would allow workers to unionize by signing a card or through a secret ballot election.

“We don’t have 60 votes yet, (but) we’re working on it. We have to have it.”

The union members applauded loudly and cheered.

The New York Times in July reported that the card check measure in the labor reform bill had been scrapped because of moderate Democrat legislators’ concerns that card check was undemocratic.

“When in doubt — organize!” Reid said to the cheering unionists.

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid said that businesses and workers have a common interest: The unemployment rate — 13.1 percent in July — is unacceptable.

“The business community would agree the primary thing is to put people back to work,” the commissioner said, adding that all workers should be paid a living wage.

Labor leader Danny Thompson, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Nevada, criticized the use of out-of-state workers for public and private jobs and said Nevada workers should get first crack at employment.

“The message here is that (the state and businesses) have got to support Nevadan workers who are going to spend their money here,” he said.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani challenged the business community to do better by its workers.

“It’s time that those who choose not to pay a living wage, who choose not to (provide) health care, pack up and leave, as far as I’m concerned,” Giunchigliani said.

• • •

Nevada Federal Credit Union again placed among the best employers for workers age 55 and older nationwide, the AARP announced.

The organization, which represents retired workers and older people still working, gives out the award annually. This is the second year the credit union was recognized for its practice of hiring and retaining older workers; its health and disability benefits; the opportunity for workers to mentor less-experienced staff; paid leave for family care; and subsidized care for child and grandchild care.

Last year Nevada Federal ranked 41 out of 50 companies; this year, it’s 14.

• • •

Stephen Coffield is the new chief administrative officer for the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division. Before that he was the division’s enforcement supervisor.

• • •

And finally, it’s been eight years since terrorists took over four airplanes and killed thousands of people, onboard and on the ground. Among the dead were flight attendants and pilots working those planes, the passengers, many firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel on the ground, along with hundreds of workers at the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

Many of them were ordinary workers, like you and me, and it’s important to remember them — and everyone else who died that day, and since, on this sad day for our country.

Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace, energy and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached at 259-8832 or at [email protected]

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