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EDITORIAL: Judge must put a stop to illegal teacher sickouts

Southern Nevadans are learning firsthand why it’s illegal for public employees to strike.

On Wednesday, the Clark County School District returns to court seeking to stop a wave of school closures caused by teacher sickouts. Over the past two weeks, seven schools have closed for a day. That includes four schools shuttered Tuesday. Two other schools managed to keep their doors open despite a large number of teacher absences.

The details provided by the district in its court filing leave no doubt this is an organized effort. On Tuesday of last week, 29 of the 33 teachers and other licensed personnel at Gibson Elementary School called in sick. Last Friday, 29 of the 40 teachers at Sewell Elementary claimed to be sick. That same day, 26 of the 40 teachers at Givens Elementary skipped work, claiming illness.

These are coordinated efforts by union officials and members to shut down schools. The goal is to pressure the district into accepting the contract demanded by the Clark County Education Association.

It’s the exact road map laid out by union executive director John Vellardita over the last two months. At a July news conference, Mr. Vellardita said the union would consider “work actions” if a contract wasn’t in place. “Those work actions that we will have to take will not be districtwide initially,” he said.

Superintendent Jesus Jara forced the union to retreat verbally by taking the matter to court. In a hearing last month, union lawyer Bradley Schrager told District Court Judge Jessica Peterson that no strike was imminent. He said that “we all know” teacher strikes are illegal. He also said, “There is no record here that my clients have broken the law.”

There is now. Nevada law defines a strike as any concerted “absence from work” by “local government employees upon any pretext or excuse, such as illness, which is not founded in fact.”

This incident shows why public employee strikes are illegal in Nevada. Teachers aren’t injuring Mr. Jara, the school board or politicians. They’re harming the taxpayers who very generously funded a more than $2 billion increase in education spending. They’re creating major problems for parents, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Last month, Judge Peterson declined to rule against the union, although she said the district could return to court if union members acted on the strike threats. They now have, and the district is doing the right thing in seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction.

District Judge Crystal Eller is scheduled to hear the case. She needs to forcefully put an end to the union’s illegal tactics.

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