North Las Vegas is taking an unusual approach to combat growing labor costs, which consume more than 80 percent of its budget: The Nevada city has declared a state of emergency and suspended some terms of its contracts with unions for the fiscal year starting July 1.
As the city of 217,000 raced to propose a balanced budget by a June 1 deadline, it invoked a state law designed to cope with riots, natural disasters, military action or civil disorder to suspend raises and holiday pay for its police and fire unions.
"There is no [legal] precedent for using fiscal crisis in Nevada as a basis to suspend collective bargaining," said Ruben Garcia, a professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He added that the argument has been tried -- unsuccessfully -- in states such as California, which also has a similar "emergency" law.
"The city's emergency declaration seems to me to be the city's last resort to avoid having to bargain with the unions."