(LAS VEGAS, KXNT)–Once again, a campaign to encourage local school teachers to leave their union has come and gone. And once again, the Clark County Education Association says it had little or no impact on the union’s membership rolls.
Conservative groups, led by the libertarian-leaning NPRI (Nevada Public Research Institute) have conducted an awareness campaign each year notifying school teachers in the Valley that they have the option of ending their union membership. But members can only ‘opt-out’ during a specified two week period–from July 1 through July 15th. Critics say its a small period of time and members are often unaware of it.
But in an interview with KXNT, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita says the ebb and flow of membership in the union has little to do with campaigns like that of NPRI, saying “they have had very little influence on reasons why people join or leave a teachers union”
Without citing specific numbers from the just-completed opt-out period, Vellardita said membership has held steady. “No different than the previous years. No spike upward, no spike significantly downward. Its pretty consistent. It has nothing to do with some right-wing think tank proclaiming to have teachers’ best interest in sharing with them ‘hey heres a way to get out of your union so you dont have any power or voice'”, he said.
He says 9,000 teachers have left the Clark County School District over the last seven years, but it has nothing to do whether members are union members or not. Vellardita says big budget cutbacks, coupled with the increasing number of baby boomers who are now retiring from teaching, have created the dropoff. He says CCEA membership continues to consist of 62% to 65% of local teachers.
NPRI has pledged to seek help in the legislature’s next session to outlaw ‘opt-out’ periods for union membership altogether, believing any union member should be afforded the choice to withdraw at any time.
To that, Vellerdita says “bring it on”. It about who has political influence. Teachers vote. 78% of all registered teachers vote without anyone telling them who or how to vote. That figure increases when teachers are organized.”
Vellardita says membership in the teachers union is not compulsory. “its voluntary, which means that people want to join.”
He sees the ‘opt-out’ campaigns as part of an overall national campaign that targets unions and public employees in general. “You cant isolate whats going on in Nevada from whats gone on in the public sector in this country the last several years. Public sector employees, whether theyare teachers or firefighters or state workers or county workers have been under attack”, said Vellardita.