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CCEA asks Supreme Court for emergency stay on injunction

Updated September 14, 2023 - 4:53 pm

The Clark County Education Association has filed a notice of appeal and emergency motion with the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to halt a preliminary injunction to prohibit teacher sickouts.

On Wednesday, District Judge Crystal Eller declared that a teacher strike had occurred and issued an injunction against sickouts that led to one-day closures at eight Clark County School District campuses since Sept. 1.

The teachers union, which represents about 18,000 licensed employees, filed a notice of appeal Wednesday and an emergency motion for a stay Thursday.

The union asked the Supreme Court to stop the injunction from proceeding “until an impending emergency, expedited appeal can be resolved,” according to court documents.

Earlier this week, the school district declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the union after 11 bargaining sessions since late March. Union members have held protests since July.

CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said Thursday he wasn’t surprised by the ruling but was disappointed and doesn’t agree with it.

The union immediately complied by issuing communication to all of the bargaining unit employees it represents, he said, as well as separate communication to building leaders.

The union has denied any involvement with encouraging or coordinating sickouts.

Vellardita said the union was notified of district investigations related to some teachers who called in sick, but hasn’t heard of punishments being issued.

The district didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time Thursday.

On Monday, the district filed an emergency motion in District Court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to “stop the continuance of a strike” by educators represented by the union.

The motion was part of a lawsuit the district filed in late July against the teachers union seeking an injunction to prevent a future teacher strike. The union filed a motion to dismiss.

District Judge Jessica Peterson denied the district’s request last month. She said there wasn’t enough evidence that a strike would occur but that she found Vellardita’s comments concerning and that she could reconvene court on a one-day notice if needed.

A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 19 on the union’s anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss, which stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation.”

Emergency motion

The preliminary injunction, which was signed Wednesday afternoon, says “the Court finds that a strike has occurred” as defined by state law.

The injunction says that defendants “and the bargaining unit they represent” are “enjoined and prohibited from continuing the strike and any other actions which amount to a strike.”

It also says the defendants are ordered to communicate the terms of the injunction with its members.

In its emergency motion Thursday, attorneys for CCEA wrote: “The terms of the injunction cannot be readily understood, cannot be fairly enforced, and must be stayed.”

The union argued the order doesn’t include any findings, reasons why it was issued or specific terms.

Those who violate the injunction are subject not only to contempt, but “a host of draconian statutory penalties,” according to the motion.

That includes up to a $50,000 fine each day for CCEA, $1,000 fine each day for union officers and potential imprisonment, and termination of employment for a teacher.

The district also has a petition pending before the state’s Employee-Management Relations Board seeking to withdraw the union’s collective bargaining agent status.

“These penalties heighten the need for immediate action by this Court,” according to the motion.

‘Teachers are fed up’

Vellardita said there’s a narrative that wasn’t heard in court Wednesday, so he thinks it’s important for the community — especially parents — “to try to understand why teachers are so angry and frustrated.”

There’s “a rot” in the district, including large class sizes, vacancies, lack of substitute teachers, behavioral issues never seen in classrooms before, no support and no time for teachers to do what’s needed, he said.

Children are moving through the system without being able to read and write at acceptable levels, Vellardita said, and he also pointed to the district’s “failed” grading policy.

“These teachers are fed up with this stuff,” he said, and have reached a tipping point.

Parents may experience inconvenience for a day when a school is closed, but 35,000 students are experiencing it every day without a licensed teacher in their classroom, Vellardita said.

He said a union goal in contract talks is to address vacancy rates.

“This is not a typical contract dispute,” Vellardita said. “This is about the future of education.”

He said he thinks the district will have trouble recruiting educators and more current teachers will leave. “Who’s going to come here with this stuff going on?”

“Pay day rallies,” which began in early August, are continuing outside of schools and several were held Thursday, Vellardita said.

He said there wasn’t a union protest planned for Thursday night’s school board meeting. But he noted a “very large event” will be held in the near future and said he couldn’t provide further details.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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