Las Vegas Sun

May 30, 2024

Nevada’s high court denies CCEA’s motion to suspend order barring strike

CCSD School Closures

Brian Ramos

Exterior of Neil C. Twitchell Elementary in Henderson Tuesday, September 12, 2023.

Updated Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 | 6:51 p.m.

Judge Issues Strike injunction Against CCEA

Attorneys Bradley Schrager, center, representing the Clark County Educational Association (CCEA), and Ethan Thomas, representing the Clark County School District, make arguments during a hearing at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. John Vellardita, executive director of the CCEA, is seated to the left of Schrager. Launch slideshow »

The Nevada Supreme Court on Friday denied the Clark County Education Association’s motion to temporarily suspend a lower court order barring teachers from striking.

A three-judge panel said they had to consider several factors in deciding whether to stay the injunction issued Wednesday by a Clark County District Court judge. The teachers union took it to the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The factors include whether the point of the appeal ­— to prevent the union as an organization and all 18,000 of the Clark County School District’s teachers that the union represents from being subject to the injunction — would be defeated if the injunction wasn’t immediately paused. Additionally, the justices needed to decide whether the union would suffer irreparable harm if the stay was denied, if CCSD would suffer irreparable harm if the stay was granted, and whether the union was likely to prevail on the merits of the appeal. Prevailing on the merits of the appeal would overturn the lower court’s order.

“Having considered the parties’ arguments in light of these factors, we are not persuaded that a stay is warranted,” the judges wrote denying the motion for a stay.

In a statement, the School District said it was pleased that the injunction remains in place.

“As we indicated in response to CCEA’s emergency request to stay the injunction, the only emergency in this case is the continuance of a teacher strike and the resulting harm to children,” the district said. “We believe that CCEA is unlikely to prevail on appeal, and we look forward to making our case before the Nevada Supreme Court.”

It was not clear when the Supreme Court would hear the case.

Earlier Friday, the district told the Supreme Court that the injunction against sickouts and other forms of strikes is “the only thing preventing an emergency in Clark County schools.”

CCEA moved to stay the order after a Clark County District Court judge on Wednesday ruled teacher sickouts that caused single-day closures at eight schools amounted to an illegal strike.

Despite the injunction, five more schools Friday had to make classroom adjustments, such as combining classes, because of a significant number of teacher absences.

The spike in absences comes as the school district and the union are deadlocked in teacher contract negotiations.

In its filing Friday, the school district said the evidence against the union “is damning, and there is little chance that they will prevail on the merits.”

CCSD lawyers said the injunction was not overly broad or vague and poses no risk of harm to the union, as the union had argued.

“In reality, the only harm facing Appellants is their court-ordered inability to engage in unlawful teacher strikes, which is no harm at all,” the district’s filing said.

District Court Judge Crystal Eller issued the injunction against the CCEA, which represents all 18,000 CCSD teachers. She deemed the union responsible for the sickouts, even if not all of the absent teachers were dues-paying union members. Nevada law prohibits teacher strikes.

Eller noted the number and widespread nature of teachers calling out sick. On Tuesday, four schools, one in each corner of the valley, closed because of staffing shortages.

Eller said it was “preposterous” to conclude so many teachers were coincidentally sick at the same time.

On Wednesday, per Eller’s orders, the union sent an email to members saying it had not and would not encourage, engage in or coordinate sickouts. It noted that teacher strikes are illegal.

The union said teachers who engage in sickouts are subject to penalties, including termination, and the union and its officers could also be held liable.

State law allows unions defying a no-strike order to be fined up to $50,000 per day and officers up to $1,000 per day.

In their motion, union lawyers said the no-strike order was vague, could not be readily understood or fairly enforced. They also said the potential punishments were “draconian” and there was no evidence linking the union to the spike in teacher absences.

The School District told the Supreme Court that the union’s “feigned inability to interpret the terms of the injunction is not believable in light of their constant refrain before the district court that everyone ‘knows the law.’”

The School District, meanwhile, reported a “high number of unexpected teacher absences” Friday at Manch and Divich elementary schools, Orr and Swainston middle schools and Desert Oasis High School.

The district sued the union, its executive director, John Vellardita, and its president and vice president in July, citing comments made by union members and leadership the district interpreted as credible threats to strike.

Union leaders and members said “work actions” were possible if the union did not have a new contract by Aug. 26.