Las Vegas Sun

October 26, 2016

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NPRI campaign to continue after teachers union opt-out period ends


Paul Takahashi

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo speaks at the School Board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2011. About 200 teachers union members wearing red attended the meeting; about two dozen of them spoke out against potential teacher layoffs.

A monthlong campaign by a local Libertarian think-tank to encourage Clark County schoolteachers to opt out of their union has had “insignificant” results on membership, according to union officials.

Last month, the Nevada Policy Research Institute launched a multifaceted initiative to inform Clark County School District teachers of their right to drop their union membership between July 1 and July 15. Nevada is a right-to-work state, which means teachers cannot be compelled to join the union as a condition for employment.

NPRI representatives distributed pre-written opt-out letters and pre-stamped envelopes at two School Board meetings; gave radio, TV and newspaper interviews; and even sent two emails to 12,000 teachers through the district’s email system.

NPRI argued on its website and in public comments that the window of opportunity for teachers to withdraw from the union was too small and that it came at a time when many teachers were away on summer vacation.

The group also claimed that the Clark County Education Association wanted to make it as inconvenient as possible for teachers to leave the union by requiring a written letter to exit the union.

“That reality is what inspired our efforts,” NPRI President Andy Matthews wrote in an email to supporters Friday. “We believe that teachers are in the best position to decide if CCEA membership is right for them, yet they have been unable to do so because they’ve been unaware of their options.”

The campaign sparked a flurry of media attention and commentary.

NPRI received more than 100 emails from teachers and community members, said Victor Joecks, the group’s communications director. Some were grateful of the group’s efforts while others were negative, he said.

NPRI’s campaign mainly drew the ire of union officials, who declared the campaign as “union-busting” and “anti-teacher.” The union — which represents 18,000 teachers in the district — derives the majority of its funding from its $768 annual dues.

Yet, despite the publicity and political back-and-forth, NPRI’s campaign has failed to affect union membership, said union President Ruben Murillo, who did not disclose exact figures.

“Their campaign has had a minimal impact on us,” Murillo said. “Despite all their efforts, their campaign against CCEA has not resulted in any significant impact on our membership.”

Although the opt-out period ends Sunday, NPRI’s official campaign will not, Joecks said.

NPRI plans to lobby legislators during the 2013 session to get rid of opt-out periods altogether, Joecks said. The campaign will also expand to Washoe County teachers and perhaps other collective bargaining units, he added.

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