Faculty members at the College of Southern Nevada are entering their fourth year without a contract, and there’s no end to the impasse in sight after labor negotiations stalled last year.
The holdup is due in part to a disagreement over a clause that would allow faculty members to seek outside arbitration over issues related to grievances and contracts.
Faculty are also asking for a 1.25 percent raise across the board, an issue that’s now gone to an independent fact-finder, according to former Nevada Faculty Alliance President Robert Manis. A report is expected to be released later this month.
“They want a dollar store education, but they want to charge students Nordstrom prices,” Manis said of the college, pointing to a tuition rate that has risen about 70 percent in the past decade.
Manis said CSN faculty nearly reached a compromise with CSN officials in 2018 that would have included a provision for arbitration in some cases, but Nevada System of Higher Education administrators intervened, a move Manis characterized as a violation of labor law.
Manis said he believes Chancellor Thom Reilly has indicated that he is opposed to bringing outside arbitration to the state’s higher education system.
“NSHE doesn’t like to be accountable to anybody,” Manis said. “If they keep it internal, they can get what they want every single time.”
As Clark County manager from 2001 to 2006, Manis noted, Reilly butted heads with an outside arbitrator who reinstated two employees Reilly had dismissed for double-dipping. One of those former employees, Kelvin Atkinson, would go on to become Nevada Senate majority leader. Atkinson pleaded guilty this year to misusing campaign funds and was sentenced to 27 months in prison in July.
But Reilly denied having any opinion on arbitration or any part in the CSN bargaining process, which he said is up to the unions and each institution’s administration. Reilly added that the two other NSHE institutions that have collective bargaining in place, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College, secured a contract this year.
“CSN (faculty) is kind of the outlier in insisting on this arbitration issue,” Reilly said. “I don’t know what to tell them at this point.”
Reilly said grievances and contract disputes are currently settled internally through a shared governance model that involves faculty peers. Outside arbitration has not been a point of contention at any other campus, according to Reilly.
“It’s kind of odd that they’d want to bring in an outside counsel,” Reilly said.
The faculty senates at Western Nevada and Truckee Meadows colleges did not return requests for comment, but CSN spokesman Richard Lake said the school “is actively engaged in the process set forth by the fact-finding, and the college continues to work to conclude this process to the satisfaction of all parties.”
A report from the American Association of University Professors found that arbitration should be used sparingly, but when appropriate, it can be “the preferred way to avoid deadlocks or administrative domination.”
Reilly said he wants to see raises for all faculty members at every institution rather than offer them exclusively at any single campus. At its Sept. 5-6 meeting, the Nevada System of Higher Education created a task force on performance pay to study compensation.
“We’re trying to do this for everybody,” Reilly said.
NSHE commissioned a study last year by insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher and Co., which found that salaries for community college professors were about 14 percent higher at NSHE than elsewhere, a finding that the CSN Faculty Senate disputed.
But even if it was accurate, faculty in Clark County face higher costs of living than their peers, Manis added.
Manis said that because the fact-finder’s report is not binding, he expects negotiations to drag on.
Striking is illegal for Nevada public employees, who face steep fines for each day of a strike, but Manis said it’s a possibility if no progress is made.
“They want to grind us down,” Manis said.
A previous version of this article gave an incorrect title for Robert Manis.