April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
January 12, 2024
The Clark County Education Association on Thursday filed with the state a petition to change Nevada law and allow teachers to go on strike.
Nevada law currently bars all public employees from striking and establishes binding arbitration as the remedy for contract negotiations that have reached an impasse.
The union-backed petition would create a carve out in the strike law that would apply to teachers, non-teacher licensed staff (like school nurses and psychologists) and educational support staff.
Striking could do in three days what most recently took nine months, said union representatives at a press conference shortly after filing their petition Thursday. CCEA in December announced it had reached a contract agreement with the Clark County School District for its 18,000 teachers.
“Our process began in March and by December over 400 educators had left CCSD,” said CCEA President Marie Neisess. “We need a fix. Binding arbitration does not work. We can’t expect educators to stand by for months on end, having the unknown.”
CCEA and CCSD have found themselves in arbitration four times over the past decade.
The union has set up a political action committee called A Teacher in Every Classroom to support the anti-strike initiative.
CCEA believes Nevada’s anti-strike law is unconstitutional and is already challenging the law as part of an ongoing court case with CCSD.
CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said the union still plans to challenge that law all the way to the Supreme Court, but that lawmakers and voters should also be considering it as a matter of values.
The union commissioned a statewide poll of 600 likely voters and found that 70% supported the right to strike for teachers.
Opponents now have 14 days to challenge the proposed initiative. Such challenges can lead to the proposals being declared legally deficient. They can also lead to wasted time.
Assuming any legal challenges are dismissed, A Teacher In Every Classroom will have until Nov. 20 to gather 102,362 signatures from Nevada voters across the state. Then, their proposal would be delivered to the 2025 Legislature, which would have 40 days to take action.
If the Legislature rejects the proposal — either by directly voting it down or by taking no action at all — it would automatically appear before voters in 2026. The same is also true if the Legislature approves the measure but the governor vetoes it.
Vellardita said the union would also consider pulling the measure if “some kind of alternative remedy” to bring quicker resolutions to contract negotiation disputes were agreed upon and passed by the legislature.
Using a qualified ballot measure as leverage for lobbying in Carson City is precisely what the union did in 2021. The year prior they qualified two initiative petitions — one to raise sales tax, another to raise the gaming tax. Legislators took no action on either of those proposals and instead passed a new mining tax, which specifically funds the state’s K-12 public education system.
“We have started having those conversations with lawmakers,” Vellardita said. “Their sentiment is that they feel where we’re coming from but there’s obviously some apprehension about striking…”
CCEA on Tuesday held what the union boss described as “an invitation-only event” with 49 lawmakers to discuss legislative priorities, including the teachers strike initiative. He did not identify any of the lawmakers in attendance, though according to a social media post by Michelee “Shelly” Cruz-Crawford, a Nevada State Board of Education member now running for state senate, participants included Democratic state Sens. Fabian Donate, Reuben D’Silva and Julie Pazina, as well as Democratic Assemblywoman Angie Taylor, who is now running for state senate.
When asked if he has discussed the proposal with Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, Vellardita replied only that the union had “talked to everybody that’s important.”
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