Unions worry about proposed Nevada picketing law

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada unions are lining up to oppose a proposed law that would make it more difficult to picket and protest businesses.

Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore presented AB 356 to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Wednesday. The bill passed the Assembly on a 23-19 vote in April.

The bill would specifically forbid picketing on private property without permission and sets a misdemeanor penalty for disrupting or threatening businesses and their employees. It also allows businesses to bring a civil lawsuit against protesters who violate the law and sets a minimum of $2,500 in recoverable damages.

Fiore of Las Vegas said the measure would help ensure civility for protesters, and help prevent tourists from being threatened or harassed during union protests.

"These tourists that come to Las Vegas, they have no idea what's happening, and all of a sudden they're being spit at," she said.

Numerous labor groups testified against the bill and said it would set a chilling precedent against constitutionally protected free speech rights.

Nevada AFL-CIO head Danny Thompson said the bill would create a headache for lawmakers due to constitutional concerns and guaranteed that it would be challenged in court if passed.

"This probably is the worst bill I've seen this session," he said.

Republican Sen. Pat Farley of Las Vegas said she understood union concerns but said the state needed to set some limits on picketing in order to protect the rights of business owners.

"The answer isn't the status quo," she said. "That's why we're here; we can't keep going like this."

The committee took no action on the bill, but Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer of Minden, committee chair, said the bill would need to be amended before passing out of committee.

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