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Las Vegas-area teachers union challenges law prohibiting members from striking


By GABE STERN Associated Press/Report for America

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s largest teachers union filed suit Monday against a state law making it illegal for teachers and other public school employees to go on strike over pay and working conditions in the country’s fifth-largest school district, which includes Las Vegas.

The Clark County Education Association argues in its lawsuit that the 1969 state law prohibiting public employee strikes is unconstitutional. They said it also infringes on the First Amendment rights of its approximately 18,000 members in nearly 380 schools in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County who are waging a contentious monthslong contract battle.

They also argue that the state’s definition of a strike is overbroad, sweeps away constitutional rights and gives way for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

The Clark County School District and the state of Nevada are both listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

In emailed statements, the Clark County School District said it is evaluating the complaint, and the Nevada Attorney General’s office said it would not comment due to pending litigation.

Last month, waves of teachers called in sick over a number of days, forcing many Las Vegas-area schools to close, including one where 87% of the teachers called in sick. The school district filed a lawsuit against the union and a judge ordered the union to put an end to the teacher absences, calling them “very clearly a strike.”

If the “sickout” continued, union penalties could have included daily fines of up to $50,000 for the organization and $1,000 per day for union officers, as well as jail time, suspension or termination for strike participants.

The union maintained that it was not involved in the absences, and appealed that ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.

If the judge rules in the union’s favor and a contract agreement is not in place, a union spokesperson said they would “take the question of a strike to our membership to make a decision.”

“Simply put, the money is there, and our demands are, and have always been, in alignment with the priorities passed by the legislature and designed specifically to address the crisis of educator vacancies we are facing in Clark County,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Contract talks have been underway since March over issues such as pay, benefits and working conditions. Tension grew when the union threatened to take action if a contract wasn’t reached before the 2023-24 school year started in August. Those actions included teachers refusing to work more hours than their contracted workday.

The school union negotiations are happening in a year where workers groups have repeatedly challenged how workers are treated across the country, from Detroit auto workers to Los Angeles school employees to Hollywood writers and Las Vegas Strip hospitality workers.

The teachers union in Las Vegas wants nearly 20% across-the-board pay raises over two years. Leaders also want additional compensation for special education teachers and teachers in high-vacancy, typically low-income schools; and increased pay for teachers working extended-day hours at certain campuses.

The school district has offered 17.4% raises over two years, so long as the state education funds are applied as estimated during that time period.

Several state lawmakers have urged the district to comply with the union’s school raise request, citing a record increase in public education funding they allocated during the legislative session.

Associated Press writer Rio Yamat contributed from Las Vegas. Stern is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on X, formerly Twitter: @gabestern326.

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