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Vegas Split — Clark County Teachers Union Cuts Ties to National Education Association, Major Loss to Largest U.S. Labor Union

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

Las Vegas teachers, fed up with how their dues are being spent, voted overwhelmingly late Wednesday to cut all ties with their state and national parent unions.

The vote by the members of the Clark County Education Association, which represents almost 20,000 teachers in the Las Vegas area, is a significant loss to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union.

It devastates the NEA’s Nevada affiliate, the Nevada State Education Association, as the Clark County local makes up half the membership of the entire state. The national NEA now has a $2 million hole in its budget for this year, and it will also need to send money to the state affiliate, which won’t be able to sustain itself and will likely see staff layoffs.

The NEA also has now lost political influence in Nevada, considered a swing state, in a pivotal election year. Clark County teachers had long been frustrated with the political endorsements of the state and national unions.

But for teachers in Clark County, whose only interaction is with their local union, little will change — except for lower dues.

The disaffiliation vote by secret ballot — 87.6 percent in favor — will allow the Clark County teachers union to reduce annual member dues from $810 to $510. The local union will pick up the added responsibility of providing liability insurance to members but will otherwise incur few additional expenses.

Indicating that the NEA expected to lose the vote, it announced late Wednesday that it has formed a new local in Las Vegas, the National Education Association of Southern Nevada. However, the Clark County Education Association remains the exclusive representative for bargaining with the Clark County School District. It will operate independently and instantly became the largest independent teachers union in the nation.

The move comes during a wave of statewide teacher strikes and as unions nationwide await a ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, the case before the U.S. Supreme Court that may end the practice of public employee unions charging agency fees to non-members. Commentators on both sides say the case could “cripple,” “destroy,” and “permanently weaken” teachers unions.

Once unheard of, the NEA has suffered a rash of disaffiliations in recent years — in Hawaii, Tennessee, Indiana, and Florida — but Clark County will be the largest loss by far. Its share of union members in Nevada will be cut roughly in half, and the losses may not be over yet.

Its local affiliate representing education support employees in Las Vegas has lost several representation votes to the Teamsters, but the case has been stalled in the Nevada state supreme court for more than a year.

The disaffiliation vote was the culmination of years of internecine strife between the state union and its largest local. Clark County Education Association has been engaged in dueling lawsuits over the share of members’ dues sent to the state and national unions and the services those unions provide for the money.

Clark County union leaders decided to hold the vote after learning that state delegates planned to vote on a measure that would allow the state union to impose a trusteeship over local affiliates “for the purposes of correcting corruption or financial malpractice and/or restoring democratic procedures.” The state union would then have been authorized to “take possession of all the funds, books, papers, and other property of the local affiliate.”

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