Nevada Union and Its Largest Local Could Be Headed For a Quickie Divorce

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears Wednesdays; see the full archive

Last September we brought you the tale of the deep rift between the Nevada State Education Association and its largest local affiliate, the Clark County Education Association, which has 10,000 members working in Las Vegas-area schools. The two unions had recently filed lawsuits against each other claiming, among other things, breach of contract.

Put simply, Clark County was unhappy with the services it received from NSEA for the money its members send to the state union, and NSEA was unhappy with the fact that Clark County withheld that money until it got a better deal.

Since that time, both unions have crafted social media campaigns to woo supporters, and NSEA and the National Education Association have cut off liability insurance coverage and member benefits to Clark County.

The biggest development came when a slate of candidates was formed in Clark County to oust the local officers who led the battle against NSEA. Called themselves Clark County Educators for Change, the challengers sought a détente with the state union as well as continued affiliation with it and NEA. In a February mail-in vote of the rank and file, however, the incumbent officers held onto their positions.

Having failed with its ballot box gambit, NSEA apparently decided to raise the stakes.

The state union will be holding its annual delegate assembly April 27-29 in Elko. Since it is no longer paying dues to NSEA, Clark County will not be represented. Among the items scheduled to be discussed and voted on by the delegates is Bylaw Amendment #1, titled “Trusteeship.” It reads:

To the extent allowable by state and federal law, the Board of Directors shall have the authority to enact policies which allow for the trusteeship of a local affiliate for the purposes of correcting corruption or financial malpractice and/or restoring democratic procedures. The policies adopted by the Board of Directors shall, at a minimum, allow for the appointment of a Trustee or Trustees who shall be empowered to take charge and control of a local affiliate and shall authorize and empower the Trustee(s) to take full charge of the affairs of the affiliate and shall empower the Trustee(s) to take possession of all the funds, books, papers, and other property of the local affiliate. The policies adopted by the Board of Directors shall include a review and due process procedure.

The Clark County officers understandably viewed this as a direct threat and sent out a bulletin headlined “NSEA Wants to Take Control of CCEA From Members.”

The newsletter accuses NSEA of trying to “conduct a hostile takeover” and describes a trusteeship as “a dictatorship.”

“There will be no democracy,” it reads. “It will be one person rule and that person will be NSEA appointed.”

And the affiliate issued its own threat as part of a Frequently Asked Questions section:

“Why are we still part of NSEA and NEA?“Good question and the answer will be decided by members.”

NSEA denied that the bylaw amendment was part of a hostile takeover, and claimed it was “written to give members real control over their association.”

Over the last decade, NEA established trusteeships over state affiliates in Indiana, South Carolina, and Alabama, but in each case at the request of the state union’s governing bodies. NEA state affiliates have a much more checkered record when it comes to establishing trusteeships over locals, especially when the dispute is about independence.

In 2014, the Maryland State Education Association reacted swiftly to a proposed disaffiliation attempt by its Wicomico County local by sending its chief counsel, along with some local representatives, to gain entry to a headquarters building after hours, seize the computers and the bank accounts, and change the locks. A judge issued a restraining order soon after and restored the elected officers, but the state union was ultimately successful: the local did not disaffiliate.

The California Teachers Association tried to impose a trusteeship over the Modesto Teachers Association the night before a disaffiliation vote by the rank and file, also in 2014. The local was prepared, however, and called the police when the CTA-appointed trustee tried to take over. The police would not allow the action without a court order. Once again, however, the state union was ultimately successful when the rank and file voted against disaffiliation.

Clark County isn’t sitting on its hands. The union announced an emergency meeting for all members, strategically scheduled for two days before the NSEA delegate assembly; its announced subject is “Dues and the Future of CCEA.”

I have no information about what will be proposed, but I suspect that the aim is to do something that will make the NSEA bylaw amendment moot. It is probable that Clark County will formally attempt to follow the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, the Santa Rosa Professional Educators, and the Carmel Teachers Association out of the NEA and into the world of independent teacher union locals.

I don’t know how NEA and NSEA would react to that eventuality, but I wouldn’t bet on them accepting it with grace.

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