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State Supreme Court backs Clark County teachers union in dues dispute

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a district court’s decision in favor of the Clark County Education Association in a longstanding membership dues dispute between rival teachers unions.

The opinion was issued Thursday in an appeal of a Clark County District Court ruling in the case.

The original lawsuit was filed by the National Education Association and its affiliate, the Nevada State Education Association, against the Clark County Education Association (CCEA), which broke away from the state association and its national parent organization in 2018, resulting in multiple lawsuits.

CCEA is the bargaining agent for licensed professionals in the Clark County School District. Education Support Employees Association, an affiliate of the Nevada State Education Association, represents Clark County School District support staff.

Two summary judgments were previously issued in Clark County District Court: one in December 2018 and one in July 2019, according to court documents.

In Thursday’s opinion, the state’s highest court concluded the local union’s obligation to transmit dues to the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) was part of a contract separate from the national and state-level union bylaws, and stated that either party could terminate it by giving timely notice.

“We hold that the local union validly terminated this contract pursuant to that provision and so was not contractually obligated to continue transmitting its members’ dues to the state union,” according to the opinion.

CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said Friday that his members anticipated the court’s decision.

“This closes the chapter of an almost three-year fight,” he said. “As an organization, we elected to disaffiliate. This litigation that they initiated was, in our opinion, a money grab.”

The ruling will free up $4.1 million in dues sitting in a restricted account — a sum from about 11,000 teachers that accumulated between the time a dues transmittal agreement was terminated in 2017 and when the union disaffiliated in April 2018, Vellardita said.

He said the money will be released to the teachers who paid dues during that time period, adding that there is not yet a timeline for when that will happen.

In a statement Thursday night, Nevada State Education Association President Brian Rippet said: “While we disagree with the court’s opinion, nothing will deter us from continuing to build a strong statewide organization focused on our members and our students in Nevada.”

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

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