Should Nevada’s Local Governments Reform Work Cards?

requiring work cardsShould Nevada’s Local Governments Reform Work Cards?

By Erin Lale

The recent spectacle of a woman standing before the Las Vegas City Council begging for permission to work, telling the story of how she fell victim to a pimp and then got herself out of the life, while the public-access TV cameras broadcast it all over town, has spurred a desire for change. At the very least Las Vegas is poised to bring its work card procedures into conformity with the county, where convenience store clerks don’t need work cards. Because the woman was actually already employed as a convenience store clerk, the woman’s story pointed up how ridiculous it is that local governments get in the way of workers and private industry by requiring work cards. Most people appealing to the City Council to override a work card denial are trying to find a job, but she already had a job; she was actually appealing on behalf of her employer to allow the business to decide for itself to which of its stores it is allowed to assign its staff.

The city and county both have a long list of occupations that require work cards. Work cards cost money, so although it’s illegal to buy a job by paying someone at one’s prospective workplace, it’s illegal to not buy from local government if one wants to work at one of the jobs on the list. Clark County and the major cities within it, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson, all have their own sets of work card requirements.

The work card system started as a way to get the Mafia out of control of the local casinos. Work cards were a symbol of having passed a background check, and they were supposed to be only for people in “key” roles at casinos. Over the years, work cards got mission creep. They spread far beyond the money handling jobs at gambling halls.

Do people have a natural right to earn a living?

According to Richard Michael, Common Law Advocate, “The Supreme Court has recognized the right.

“Included in the right of personal liberty and the right of private
property — partaking of the nature of each — is the right to make
contracts for the acquisition of property. Chief among such contracts
is that of personal employment, by which labor and other services are
exchanged for money or other forms of property.”

“The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems
proper is, in its essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of
labor to prescribe the conditions upon which he will accept such labor
from the person offering to sell it.”

Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915)”

Michael writes the Constitution for the Everyman blog at

If people have a natural right to earn a living through their labor, and therefore selling permission to exchange labor in the form of a work card is not a legitimate function of government, does that imply that selling permission to exchange labor in the form of a business license is also not a legitimate function of government? What about professional licensing? Does excluding new business models from entering the marketplace serve the interests of society?

Business licenses are a revenue generator for cities and counties. Work cards, however, do not generate a profit, because issuing a work card takes up the valuable time of law enforcement personnel. If ever there were a function of government ripe for privatization, surely it is approving the hiring of private workers in private industry. Let employers conduct their own background checks. Doing away with the work card system entirely would accomplish three positive things. Firstly, it would align our local governments with Nevada’s libertarian tradition of Western self-reliance and the American ideal of the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the right to earn a livelihood being part of the right to live. Secondly, it would free up law enforcement resources for more pressing crime-fighting goals. Thirdly, it would help the poor and unemployed get jobs by removing a barrier that keeps qualified workers from accessing work.

Radio personality Alexander Snitker of 1787 Radio Network said, “As long as the employment of a person does not infringe on the rights of another person and the employment is entered into by a voluntary agreement between the employer and the employee the government does not have the right to interfere for any reason.”