The Clark County Education Association (CCEA), the largest teachers’ union in Nevada, has filed a lawsuit against the state and the Clark County School District (CCSD), challenging a law that prohibits public school employees from striking. The union claims that the law violates their constitutional rights and is vague and arbitrary.
The Law and the Lawsuit
Nevada Revised Statutes 288.230 states that “it is unlawful for any employee in the classified or unclassified service of the state or any political subdivision thereof, or for any employee of a school district, to strike or recognize a picket line of an employee organization while in the performance of his or her duties.” The law also authorizes the employer to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, suspension, or fines, on any employee who participates in a strike.
The CCEA filed the lawsuit on Monday, October 9, 2023, in the Clark County District Court, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and infringes on their First Amendment rights of free speech, assembly, and association. The union also contends that the law’s definition of a strike is overbroad and vague, and gives way for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
The lawsuit comes amid a contentious contract dispute between the CCEA and the CCSD, which are set to head to arbitration. The union says that the arbitration process is lengthy and ineffective, and that the school district has failed to honor the promises made by the state legislature to fund education.
The Sickout and the Injunction
Last month, hundreds of teachers called in sick over several days, forcing many schools in Las Vegas and surrounding areas to close or operate with reduced staff. The school district filed a lawsuit against the union and obtained a temporary restraining order from a judge, who ruled that the sickout was “very clearly a strike” and ordered the union to stop it. The judge also warned that the union could face hefty fines and jail time if it continued to encourage or organize the sickout.
The union appealed the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, claiming that it was not involved in the sickout and that it was a spontaneous action by individual teachers who were frustrated with the lack of progress in contract negotiations. The union also said that the injunction violated their due process rights and that the judge had no jurisdiction over the matter.
The Potential Strike
If the lawsuit succeeds and the anti-strike law is declared unconstitutional, the union says that it will take the question of a strike to its membership for a decision. The union says that it will give ample notice to parents and students if a strike is imminent, so that they can make arrangements.
However, not everyone supports the idea of a strike. Some parents and advocates say that a strike would cause chaos and disruption for students and families, especially those who rely on public schools for meals, transportation, and childcare. They also say that a strike would harm the reputation and quality of education in Nevada, which ranks among the lowest in the nation.
The CCSD and the Nevada Attorney General’s office have not commented on the lawsuit yet. They are expected to file their responses in court soon.