North Las Vegas declares state of emergency to cut growing labor costs

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."

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