Education support staff union endangered by declining membership

One union speaks for all 10,949 bus drivers, janitors, cooks and other support staff behind the scenes of America’s fifth-largest school district. But the union — one of the largest in Nevada —may be speaking out of turn.

Even though the Education Support Employees Association has long negotiated the contract determining support staff’s working conditions, it appears the majority of them no longer stand behind the union.

State law requires unions that represent government workers to have more than 50 percent of a group as members to have the right to bargain on their behalf. But membership in the support staff union teeters at 49 percent of district workers, according to the district’s report of membership dues deducted in September from 5,401 worker paychecks.

Nevertheless, Clark County School District officials say they won’t challenge the status of the support staff union but will continue to negotiate with it to set workers’ salaries and benefits.

“Our focus is on improving student achievement, not internal union politics. We would prefer to not get involved in a matter between employees and their association,” reads a district statement from spokeswoman Melinda Malone to the Review-Journal.

School Board President Carolyn Edwards said she would trust Super­intendent Pat Skorkowsky to look into the union’s status. Edwards, subject of a state investigation focused on her actions in promoting last year’s push for a property tax increase to fund school improvements, reiterated that the district won’t “get involved in union politics.”

However, state law gives employers the power to seek relief from bargaining with a union that doesn’t represent a majority of employees, said Teri Williams, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.

“I’d think they (Clark County School District) would have a vested interest in making certain they’re talking to representation that their employees want,” Williams said this month.


The Education Support Employees Association’s 49 percent representation rate is based on the number of workers who have union dues deducted from their paychecks. That figure is not definitive; it doesn’t account for workers who pay their dues another way. But it’s the only indicator available, since unions aren’t required to release membership numbers. Calls to support staff union President John Carr last week were not returned.

Full-time support staff workers pay $20.50 in biweekly dues to the Education Support Employees Association.

Another union is also losing membership, although it still is above the majority required by law. The Clark County Education Association, representing 17,908 teachers, has a membership of 59 percent of teachers and has been losing support for years, according to district-reported dues deductions.

The teachers union’s membership is down by 469 teachers from last school year, even though the district added about 1,000 new teachers. The teachers union received a $300,000 grant earlier this year from its parent organization, the National Education Association, to fund “organizing efforts,” according to the union’s executive board meeting minutes in February.

For the past two school years, conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute has run a campaign emailing district teachers about their ability to drop union membership during a small two-week window in July.

Together, district support staff and teachers make up the vast majority of workers for what is the largest employer in the state.

The latest membership numbers bode ill for the unions, said Victor Joecks, the think tank’s spokesman, who said, “Members are dropping like flies. The numbers speak for themselves.”

Other district employee unions are flourishing however, with both police and administrator unions enrolling about 98 percent of eligible workers and staff.

Support staff union officials are now negotiating health coverage with district officials, who don’t plan to act on the union’s potential membership shortfall.

While that decision is ethically questionable, it serves a political purpose, said Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the nonprofit Nevada Center for Public Ethics. The union you know is better than the union you don’t, he said.

“Right now we’re in a gray area, ethically,” he said, emphasizing that the support staff union’s membership is floating at the legal minimum.

But if membership were to fall significantly below 50 percent, the district should not ignore it, Dupalo said.

“At that point, what are you doing negotiating with them?”


Even if School District officials do nothing, competing unions can challenge the Education Support Employees Association for not having majority membership, according to state law.

Like the district, a competing union would have to petition Nevada’s Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board to hold a hearing on the support staff union’s membership. But since negotiations between the district and the support staff union have already commenced for this year’s contract, a petition must wait for a one-month window that opens 242 days before the contract’s expiration, according to state law. That window is the month of November.

Teamsters Local 14 has been trying to take over district support staff representation for years. It won a majority of votes in a 2006 election asking workers to pick between the two unions. But the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the union must obtain an absolute majority. That means more than 50 percent of all 10,949 support staff must vote for the union, not just a majority of those who voted on the issue.

That kind of a voter turnout is nearly impossible to obtain, Teamsters Local 14 President Al Ghilarducci has said.

An alternative would be challenging ESEA’s membership numbers. But that would only remove the Education Support Employees Association as the representing union, not put the Teamsters in place. A replacement union would need to have majority membership.

Without that, the district’s 10,949 bus drivers, janitors, cooks and other support staff would be left to the conditions of employment set solely by the district, Williams said.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.

Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like