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Teachers union officials presented ‘selective sick outs’ during meeting, photo shows

Updated September 15, 2023 - 9:43 am

Leaders for the Clark County teachers union presented the possibility of using “selective sick outs” during a meeting with thousands of its members in late July, just weeks before several schools were forced to cancel classes in the wake of teachers calling out sick.

Contract negotiations are ongoing between the Clark County Education Association and the Clark County School District. Union leadership has repeatedly denied playing any role in recent sickouts that have led to one-day closures at eight Clark County School District campuses since Sept. 1.

But during a July 29 meeting held at the Rio Convention Center, where the union discussed work actions with its members related to contract negotiations, a slide titled “Rolling School Outs” was shown to the thousands of teachers in attendance.

The slide contained bullet points that read “Selective Engagement,” “One Trustee District at a time” and “Selective Sick Outs.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained an image of the slide from one of its employees who was at the meeting.

When reached by phone Thursday, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said he wouldn’t comment on assumptions or “something that wasn’t validated,” citing the union’s appeal of a judge’s preliminary injunction to prohibit teacher sickouts.

A hearing Wednesday ended with the judge determining the teacher absences constituted a strike.

Striking is illegal for public employees under Nevada law. A union can be fined up to $50,000 each day and up to $1,000 each day and even jail time for strike leaders.

In a statement after the ruling, the union said it had not encouraged, engaged in or coordinated any concerted sickouts in the past and would not do so moving forward.

Evidence in question

A different photo of the same slide was presented in court Wednesday by lawyers for the Clark County School District, but the judge declined to admit that image as evidence on the grounds that it could not be authenticated.

Bradley Schrager, a lawyer representing the union, maintained during the hearing that there was no evidence union leaders coordinated the sickouts.

“They have not offered anything establishing that CCEA, Mr. Vellardita, Ms. Neisess or Mr. Frazee is coordinating, encouraging, advising or in any way links to any unlawful strike activity,” Schrager said of the district’s position. “If they did have that evidence, it would be incredibly prominent.”

The school district filed an emergency motion Monday to cease the “rolling sickouts” that they alleged were part of an organized strike by the teachers union. On Wednesday, a judge ruled in favor of the district, granting a preliminary injunction against CCEA to end the sickouts.

CCEA, which represents about 18,000 of the district’s educators, said it would appeal the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The judge’s decision came just a day after the school district declared an impasse in negotiations with the union after nearly a dozen collective bargaining sessions that have occurred since March. The district called for arbitration to resolve the negotiations over pay, benefits and working conditions.

As part of the negotiations, CCEA has called for a 10 percent raise for educators in the first year, and an 8 percent raise in the second year. But the district argued that it can’t support that level of an ongoing pay increase, and said it ultimately offered a 9 percent salary increase in the first year of a new contract, a new salary schedule and $10,000 incentives for certain hard-to-fill positions, which the union did not accept.

A spokesperson for the school district did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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