Rarely are union disputes resolved so amiably, but the relationship between the City of Reno, Nevada and its firefighters “is much less adversarial than it was last spring,” despite the two parties taking their cases to court. Receiving a ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court in the last week of 2014, the City of Reno could be said to be in a position of “legal victory.” The Fire Union “has no right to arbitrate the layoffs under its collective bargaining agreement,” according to the opinion issued by the Supreme Court. So why are Nevada contract lawyers for both parties celebrating?
Because “the jobs are safe for now,” city Manager Andrew Clinger reports to the Fire Union in Reno. It all began when Reno’s budget looked too skimpy to be able to retain its entire force of firefighters, and reported that layoffs of approximately 50 firefighting personnel would be in the future. Rearing up against the perceived injustice, the Fire Union leveraged its Nevada contract lawyers to point to the agreement they had drawn up with the city of Reno that stipulated the terms of their employment. Specifically, that they would be protected from layoffs.
But it didn’t turn out that way after all. The power of their collective bargaining agreement was found to be limited, with the State Supreme Court ruling that if the funds are not in the budget to retain all the city personnel, then the agreement doesn’t preclude Reno’s right to layoff the employees needed to balance the budget. Initially demanding that “an arbitrator should be able to decide whether a ‘lack of funds’ actually existed” when the city made its lack-of-funds claim, the Reno Fire Fighters Local 731 has seemingly acquiesced to the legal reality in front of it.
Nevada contract lawyers like Robert A. Ryan would be able to discern from the State Supreme Court ruling the “state law and contract language that gives the city the exclusive right to reduce its workforce due to a lack of funds,” and maybe one reason the 731 isn’t putting up as much resistance has to do with a stopgap miracle: Reno found the funds!
If it seems a little fishy, neither party is complaining at the moment, with the president of Local 731 reiterating that “the union’s primary goal of protecting its members’ jobs was realized.” At least for a little while. The city of Reno has reported enough funding to retain all 50 jobs at least until the new fiscal year beginning July 1, the budgeting session for which will begin February 1.
Local 731 is hopeful that the city will be able to move enough funding around to continue their members’ employment, especially since, with the final word from the state’s Supreme Court, no amount of legal magic from Nevada contract lawyers like Ryan or the 731’s previous legal team is likely to change their fate at this point.