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EDITORIAL: Teachers union prevails in court — for now

A local judge has temporarily sided with the local teachers union in its ugly fight with the Clark County School District. But it’s up to the union whether the ruling endures.

On Tuesday, District Judge Jessica Peterson denied the district’s request for an injunction preventing teachers from striking. John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, has made comments about impending “work actions” if the teachers are unable to reach a new contract with the district. This prompted district officials to seek the order.

It is illegal in Nevada — and 38 other states — for public employees to strike.

Judge Peterson concluded that it remains too early to determine “that a strike will occur” — a finding necessary for her to issue the injunction. The judge added, however, that she would entertain a one-day notice to revisit the issue if teachers eventually do walk out.

Union officials argued that the district’s pre-emptive legal action was premature and an effort to stifle the First Amendment rights of public school teachers. But the latter complaint is ridiculous. Unhappy Clark County teachers are free to shout their complaints from the Sheep Range to the Black Mountains, from the Spring Mountain Range to the Frenchman Mountains. They just can’t legally strike — and there’s good reason for this.

Strikes by police officers and firefighters endanger public safety. Other public-sector employees who walk off the job — including teachers — are striking against the best interests of the citizens who pay their salaries and have entrusted them with taking care of the government’s business.

Nevada law states that “the services provided by the state and local government employers are of such nature that they are not and cannot be duplicated from other sources and are essential to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of Nevada” and that the “continuity of such services is likewise essential, and their disruption incompatible with the responsibility of the state to its people.”

Most government workers operate in a monopoly. Absent competitive pressures, there are few incentives for public-sector employees to temper their demands — and nobody on the other side of the table representing the taxpayers.

“It is inappropriate for governments to maintain monopoly provision of services and at the same time allow workers to strike,” Niels Veldhuis and Keith Godin of the Fraser Institute write. “In other words, there is a choice: We should either allow competition and the right to strike or continue to provide services in a monopolized manner and prevent strikes.”

Public employees know the rules — or should — when they sign up. If the unionized teachers walk off the job, the district and the courts must hold them accountable.

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