Plumbers, plasterers, and other union subcontractors in booming Las Vegas have been making headlines in recent months, for taking builders to task—even picketing the local HBA office. They argue that the hiring of poorly trained workers is feeding the growth of product defect lawsuits in the region. And naturally, they suggest that unionization of subcontractors would raise the quality bar.

The Southern Nevada HBA (SNHBA) strongly disagrees. It recently lobbied hard to pass Senate Bill 241, which was signed into law unanimously in June 2003. The bill gives home builders 105 days for “right to repair” before homeowners can sue. Todd Lair, business manager for Operative Plasterers' & Cement Masons' Local 797 in Las Vegas, says the bill needs reworking.

“When they sold that bill to the legislature, they misrepresented the quality assurance training program that the SNHBA offered as part of it,” Lair says. “We think it's terrible that the biggest investment a person makes is plagued with defect problems because of an untrained, unskilled labor force,” he adds.

Irene Porter, executive director of the SNHBA, counters that the motivation behind the union push is simple: greed. She says that union leaders are simply trying to extend their reach to the thousands of subcontractors in the Vegas region so they can collect dues. At present, only about 1 percent of those contractors belong to a union.

For now, the sides are in a standoff.

“They're not going to go away, but things are a lot quieter here now,” Porter notes. “They've tried everything, including intimidation—but it's not working.”

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Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.