Jack Schaefer, a Nevada construction industry leader, died on April 15 of pancreatic cancer while in hospice care in Las Vegas. He was 64. Schaefer had served various leadership roles for the Las Vegas chapters of the Associated General Contractors and Nevada Contractors Association. Schaefer was a well known labor negotiator who also sat on several local construction union trusts and apprenticeship training boards, including those for the laborers, operating engineers and cement masons, among others.
Born in Aberdeen, S.D., Jack Alan Schaefer served as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1969. He later lived and worked in Denver doing marketing work and running various businesses. His older brother, Dan, served as U.S. Representative (R-Colo.) from 1983 to 1999.
In 1990, Jack Schaefer moved to Las Vegas for a position as labor relations director with the local AGC chapter. In 1995, he departed amid a leadership rift to launch a rival trade group called the Nevada Contractors Association. The group is dedicated to exclusively representing union contractors, as opposed to both union and nonunion companies like the AGC.
“At the time, AGC was promoting nonunion guys but it was the revenue generated from the union contractors that supported the group,” says Howdy Wells, Wells Cargo Construction board chairman. “We were funding our competition. Jack could talk to any of the unions and they believed him. He was a super negotiator.”
Schaefer developed the Nevada Contractors Association from the ground up, growing its membership to over 200 companies that included many of the Las Vegas valley’s biggest builders such as Bechtel, Marnell Corrao Associates, Perini Building Co. and McCarthy Building Cos. Schaefer held various executive positions within the group including president, executive director and board member. He was instrumental negotiating and establishing wages and working conditions for Southern Nevada construction trade unions on public works projects and resort casino work. Colleagues describe Schaefer as affable but reserved, with a dry sense of humor.
“The unions sought out the Nevada Contractors Association to negotiate labor contracts due to Jack’s relationships,” says Rick Ewing, chief union negotiator with Las Vegas Paving Corp. “His knowledge and understanding of labor law and calm objectivity helped strengthen relations between labor and management.”
Schaefer was active in several charitable groups and served as a trustee for the Police and Fire Emerald Society. His hobbies included theater and opera, fly-fishing and movies.
Schaefer is survived by wife, Pamela Newell, and daughter, Amy, and son, J. D., both children from a previous marriage. There will be no funeral or wake services. Schaefer’s ashes will be spread at sea off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, on Memorial Day.