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Sisolak’s budget cuts are a betrayal of state workers (opinion)


Submitted by Adam Barrington

It was an exciting moment for Nevada state workers when Steve Sisolak won the gubernatorial election against Adam Laxalt in 2018. While many of us had hoped that Chris Giunchigliani, the progressive candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, would be our candidate, we quickly made peace with the idea of a Sisolak governorship. The Laxalt alternative would have been an absolute catastrophe for workers across Nevada in both the public and private sectors.

Nevada state workers recognized the urgency of the 2018 gubernatorial race with the prescience that only experience can provide. We knew that if Adam Laxalt became the governor, we’d face budget cuts, furloughs, violations of contracts and other austerity measures characteristic of Laxalt and his ilk. Nevada state workers were still struggling to recover from the last failure of the neoliberal economic system. We knew we had to get Sisolak elected.

Sisolak campaigned on a superficially pro-worker platform. He said that, if he won the election, he’d give state workers the right to collectively bargain. By Nevada standards, which takes into consideration the abuse suffered by all workers living within such a dour economic framework, this was quite substantial. However, given it’s the natural right of every worker to organize and mobilize whether the government–state or federal – likes it or not, this is hardly a reason to pat Sisolak’s back. The labor movement doesn’t beg for favors or saviors.

Fast forward to today: Sisolak is the governor of Nevada, the U.S. economy is in shambles, and state governments across the nation are balancing their budgets on the backs of their workers. Washington state workers are facing furloughs and budget cuts, as are state workers in Colorado, California and Florida. Nevada state workers are disgusted, but not entirely shocked that we are facing the same austerity measures.

The disgust comes mostly from the fact that much of our cynicism was legitimate. We figured Sisolak was the best shot we had at maintaining a sense of dignity on the job, but we acknowledged he’d probably let us down. Well, here we are: furloughs, budget cuts, nearly $70 million from education and health services. Is the governor unaware of Nevada’s unemployment rate? Our housing crisis? Our disastrous approaches to mental health and education?

Is the governor unaware that Nevada is considered a haven for predatory corporations and robber barons? Is Sisolak aware that state workers are among the lowest-paid workers in Nevada? That Tesla broke the state contract a long time ago? That taxpayers spent $750 million on a football stadium?

While there’s still time for Sisolak to prove us wrong, to demand a federal bailout, to tax corporations and parasitic elites, state workers highly doubt he’ll rise to the occasion. Looking back, such courage was never in the cards. However, state workers–organized, militant and union strong–will rise, as we always do when confronted with adversity.

Where’s Governor Chris G. when you need her?


Adam Barrington is a labor organizer from Cleveland, Ohio.  He has worked with organizations such as Community Outreach Group and was an organizer for MoveOn.org’s United Against Hate campaign. During the RNC in Cleveland, Adam helped craft the public education platform for the People’s Justice and Peace Convention. He has a background in adolescent and young adult education and currently resides in Reno.

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Former Nevada governor announced as Pritzker fellow

Former Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak will join the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics as a Pritzker fellow, where he will lead seminars on leadership based on lessons learned as governor, the university announced Wednesday.