For months, the Clark County Education Association portrayed itself as a roaring lion. On Saturday, the façade fell away to reveal a scared kitty.
That’s when the union held a members-only meeting to discuss contract negotiations with the Clark County School District. The union refused to allow the media into the meeting. It didn’t even hold a news conference to discuss what was said.
That was unusual. The union had been going out of its way to attract attention. Late last month, it held a meeting at the Rio convention center. Executive Director John Vellardita talked freely about targeted walkouts.
“If we do not have an agreement with the school (district) by Aug. 26, our organization and our members will be taking a vote to engage in work actions,” he said.
That tough talk continued unabated. Last week, the union protested outside a School Board meeting. Its members disrupted the meeting, too. The union appeared itching for a fight.
But on Saturday, the union turned tail and skittered off. The union refused to let the media into its meeting.
It appears the union’s big decision was to beg Gov. Joe Lombardo to help them. This is like a bully challenging someone to a fight and then running to get the teacher when their target accepts. Lombardo issued a bland statement in response. So far, he appears wise enough to steer clear of the union’s mess.
Late Tuesday, the union said it will lodge complaints if teachers feel pressure to work more than their contracted seven hours, 11 minutes, even though their contract requires that.
The contrast with 2019 couldn’t be more stark. During that contract dispute, the union set a strike date, even though strikes are illegal.
The union’s about-face didn’t happen by accident. Vellardita and the union are running scared of Superintendent Jesus Jara. Unlike four years ago, Jara this time used the legal tools at his disposal to prevent a strike and filed for an injunction.
District Judge Jessica Peterson did rule in the union’s favor, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. The union won by convincing her it didn’t stand by the clear implication of its past threats. Imagine the judge’s response if the union then authorized the very “work actions” it acknowledged were illegal.
But without the threat of a strike, Vellardita’s tough talk sounds a lot more like the meows of an alley cat — audible but easy to ignore. Parents and the public are about to tune out this dispute out.
Teachers should understand what’s at stake. The district has made a very generous offer. It includes an 8.5 percent salary increase this year. Some teachers will make significantly more as the district moves them up the salary table. The biggest sticking point appears to be over a 6 percent or 2 percent raise next school year. Binding arbitration favors the union, but the CCEA’s demands are beyond what other unions received. Regardless, a decision probably wouldn’t come for six months or more.
If teachers want a raise before next spring, they should start protesting the now scaredy-cat CCEA.