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Justice denied for school district workers

This is not what democracy looks like.

America was founded on the will of the people. When the majority votes in an election, the result is always clear. These are the principles upon which our nation was founded, and this is how democracy works.

In Nevada, however, these democratic principles are under attack. There are nearly 12,000 workers at the Clark County School District who have been disenfranchised due to an unfair election system. For more than a decade, they have made their voices and their votes clear for strong union representation with Teamsters Local 14. The majority wants change, but the will of the workers has been stymied.

District support staff are in the fight of their working lives. They played by the rules. When the rules were unfair — as they were in two previous elections requiring the participation of 50 percent plus 1 of the entire unit to win certification — support staff stood strong to overturn them. After winning both elections by overwhelming margins, they took their case to the Employee-Management Relations Board demanding a fair vote.

On Dec. 4, support staff won a third landslide victory at the ballot box, with 82 percent voting in favor of Local 14. The third and final vote was fair and democratic.

In January, the board certified the election and authorized Local 14 as support staff’s official bargaining agent at the district. Their former representative, however, decided to use anti-democratic maneuvers to undermine support staff’s decision through frivolous legal tactics. Now these workers are being denied representation by an association that claims to have their best interests in mind. Meanwhile, the collective voice of nearly 12,000 clerical, custodial, maintenance, school bus and cafeteria workers continues to go ignored.

The will of the majority cannot be denied any longer at the Clark County School District. The need for a swift and just resolution is critical. They desperately need the strong representation of the Teamsters. That’s why they sought out the Teamsters, and that is why they have fought so hard to win representation with Local 14.

Why should support staff suffer because of a broken system? By denying support staff Teamster representation, thousands of working families are finding it harder and harder to survive financially, to support their families and support themselves. No school worker should have to take a second or third job to survive.

Support staff have gone almost a decade without decent wages. Furthermore, there have been constant concessions to their benefits, forcing many on support staff to stop their health insurance due to rising premiums.

The bottom line: District support staff deserve better.

For these workers to go another school year without adequate representation would be — to quote Judge Cory’s April 20 decision — a “manifest injustice.” It is unfair, unethical and undemocratic.

There is perhaps no group of workers more dedicated and united than the determined men and women of Clark County. They are ready to fight this system of unfair elections.

Tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted on what the Employee-Management Relations Board has called a “failed experiment” of a supermajority vote to change representation.

The taxpayer’s money should be spent on elections that are fair and democratic. They should be spent on elections that are conclusive and value the will of the people.

The Teamsters Union will continue to stand in solidarity and unity with everyone at the district. The solution is simple, but it is up to state officials to listen. It is up to every citizen in Clark County to support these workers. This is not solely a fight for workers’ rights. This is a fight for a better school system.

Ultimately, it is a fight for democracy. The only question is: Which side are you on?

James P. Hoffa is general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. This essay was also signed by Elena Rodriquez-Malfavon, student program placement processor with the Clark County School District; Christi Springer, a school aide with the district; Carlos Pinto, the district’s head custodian; and Ernie Ixtlahuac, a district bus driver.

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