If you want to raise teacher pay, tell them how to opt out of union membership. That’ll save them hundreds of dollars a year.
It’s an opportunity teachers have only once a year, and their opportunity starts next week.
Nevada is a right-to-work state, so teachers don’t have to join the Clark County Education Association. Once someone joins, however, they may leave only by submitting written notice to the union between July 1 and July 15. The union’s address is 4230 McLeod Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89121. Support staffers and education employees throughout Nevada have the same limited opt-out period, although they must send a withdrawal letter to their specific union.
The whole thing is ridiculous. Imagine if you told your gym you wanted to cancel your membership, but you were told you had to wait for a two-week period in July. There’d be a lawsuit. With summer vacation in full swing and Independence Day next week, these are inconvenient weeks for teachers to ponder the issue. Of course, this is completely intentional. Union bosses are more interested in collecting dues from teachers than making it easier for them to leave.
Many district teachers and support staffers have already decided union membership isn’t best for them. As of last November, just 10,794 of the district’s 18,649 licensed teachers were union members. That’s fewer than 58 percent.
Barely one-third of the district’s 12,127 support staff workers are members of the Education Support Employees Association. Part of the reason for those low percentages is that the Nevada Policy Research Institute, my former employer, has spent the past few years telling teachers about this window. Thousands have already left.
There are many reasons for teachers to opt out of union membership. It starts with money. Currently, dues are $510 a year. What does $510 mean to a teacher? That money represents paying off bills, a vacation or having a nice meal out every month of the year. Those are all better uses of a teacher’s money than sending it to an organization whose executive director, John Vellardita, raked in more than $215,000 in 2015.
In all, seven teacher union employees made more than $150,000 in 2015, the latest year that numbers from the IRS are available.
Why should teachers send their money to a union that pays its employees like the district pays its administrators?
Teachers may also be tired of the union’s internal turmoil. The CCEA, the local union, has repeatedly butted heads with the Nevada State Education Association, the state union. Previously, membership in the CCEA also meant teachers were a part of the state and national unions. The local and state unions sued each other last year, and in April, the local union voted to break away from its parent organization. Most educators weren’t interested in who won. Just 796 teachers, fewer than 5 percent, cast a ballot in that referendum. Why pay for an organization you don’t care about?
In response, the state teachers union formed a new group called the National Education Association-Southern Nevada — and urged teachers to drop the local union. It’s hilarious to see the state teachers union run its own version of the NPRI’s opt-out campaign.
Then there’s the politics. The local union successfully backed Democrat Steve Sisolak for governor, and the state union backed Chris Giunchigliani. The state union spent more than $1 million advertising for her. That money came from — you guessed it — teachers. Wouldn’t many teachers have preferred to keep their money instead of paying for annoying political ads?
This an important message for incoming teachers, too. During new teacher orientation, the union makes a sales pitch and pressures teachers into signing up for the union. Take your time. You can always join later. But dissatisfied teachers can leave only between July 1 and July 15.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.