Reno to Spend $600,000 Negotiating with Labor Unions


Reno, Nevada officials are doubling down – with hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars – in hopes that a Los Angeles-based law firm can help bring the city’s union labor expenses under control.

The Reno City Council is discussing the possibility of doubling its budget with the law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP for the second time in a year as the city continues to negotiate new contracts with its six labor unions, reports.

The city, which has been negotiating with the unions since early 2013, could increase the budget for union negotiations to $600,000 later this month to resolve disputes over the labor contracts, several of which are heading for arbitration.

“If approved, this would be the second time this year the contract was doubled. In 2013, the Council agreed to retain the Los Angeles-based firm for an amount not to exceed $150,000. In February, the Council agreed to extend the contract to 2015, and double what it is paying to as much as $300,000,” the news site reports.

Spokesmen for the Reno Police Protective Association and the Reno Fire Fighters’ Association, meanwhile, are highlighting the massive attorney fees as a colossal waste of taxpayer money and working to convince residents that Fisher & Phillips are merely bilking the city for all it can get.

“They have no reason in the world to resolve a collective bargaining agreement. They have a lot of reason in the world to make 400 and some dollars an hour on … the taxpayer’s dime,” Ron Dreher, chief negotiator for the Reno police told MyNews4.

The Reno Fire Fighters’ Association contends “the action to approve additional spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside legal counsel against its own employees reflects yet another questionable decision from the City Manager’s office,” according to a prepared statement cited by the television station.

The money spent on attorneys negotiating the union contracts on behalf of the city is, of course, only a drop in the bucket compared to the massive spending spelled out in the labor agreements. There’s no doubt that the city’s tax dollars could go to a much more worthwhile cause than already rich attorneys from Los Angeles, but the legal expertise is simply a very expensive bi-product of the collective bargaining process imposed on taxpayers by the city’s unions.

The unions’ focus on the cost of negotiating is a red herring designed to distract taxpayers from the real money suck: the contracts themselves. The labor agreements dictate things like paid leave time, salary increases, bonuses, overtime pay, union release time, pension contributions, health insurance coverage and other union perks for scores of public employees that can dramatically alter the city’s budget.

Reno City Councilmember Dwight Dortch explained to MyNews4 that the massive legal expense is necessary to control runaway union labor expenses in The Biggest Little City in the World for the long term.

“It’s about having the right team at the table at these contract negotiations,” he said. “We’re not talking about the impact over the next year, these contracts live with us forever and we’ve got to get them under control.”


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