‘Union busting at its finest’

Victor Joecks

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI’s week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them. Just enter your email in the box on the top right.

For today’s week-in-review email, Andy gives you the inside scoop on NPRI’s campaign to inform teachers of their right to leave the Clark County Education Association (which teachers can still do, but only if they hand deliver their opt-out notice by the close of business today).

We at NPRI have just finished a campaign involving the Clark County Education Association that’s generated some fiery responses, and I wanted to give you the inside scoop on it.

First of all, here’s what some local union bosses and a few CCEA members have had to say about our efforts.

John Vellardita, executive director of CCEA, said NPRI was “bashing teachers.” Ruben Murillo wrote that we wanted to “silence the voice of teachers.” NPRI received a couple of “F— you” e-mails from union members. And the Nevada State Education Association even called our efforts “union busting at its finest.”

What did NPRI do to provoke all this vitriol?

We simply informed teachers that they have a choice when it comes to deciding whether CCEA membership is right for them, and we set out to let teachers know that they can leave CCEA by submitting written notice to the union between July 1 and 15.

I should note that these are the two most inconvenient weeks of the year for teachers, because they fall in the middle of summer vacation and include Independence Day, to boot. Many teachers don’t even know this opt-out window exists.

This is no accident. It has been specifically negotiated and pushed for by CCEA and is in Section 8-4 of its contract with the Clark County School District. The union bosses of CCEA want to make it as inconvenient as possible for teachers to leave, because they know that if teachers know they have a choice, thousands will opt out.

That reality is what inspired our efforts. We believe that teachers are in the best position to decide if CCEA membership is right for them, yet many have been unable to do so because they’ve been unaware of their options.

Last month, we released a commentary highlighting five reasons many teachers are leaving CCEA, including outrage over one union official making more than $625,000 in 2009 alone. The commentary also highlighted alternative educator associations, like the Association of American Educators, that offer better benefits for a fraction of the cost.

We also joined some brave teachers at a school board meeting to announce this effort before the board. We offered teachers a generic opt-out letter. We appeared on numerous TV and radio shows and in print articles talking about this option for teachers. We even sent e-mails to more than 12,000 teachers letting them know that they had an option when it came to union membership, but only for a limited time.

The response was overwhelming. Teachers wrote and called to tell us how grateful they were to receive this information. How excited they were to learn that they had a choice. How eager they were to leave CCEA, an organization that had attempted to harass or intimidate some of them into retaining their membership. How they were thrilled about the opportunity to save $768 a year.

And that is what prompted the fiery responses from union bosses that I referenced earlier – the fact that NPRI simply let teachers know they had a choice, and that we believe teachers should be trusted to make the choice that’s best for them.

Indeed, union bosses are so scared of their members – teachers – being able to make their own decisions that they lashed out at NPRI just for providing teachers with information. It says a lot about the union leadership that they would prefer that their own members remain in the dark about their rights.

My friend, I want you to know that we’re not going to back down. Although the opt-out period ends on Sunday, and any teacher wanting to leave must go to CCEA’s office today to opt out, we’re going to continue to focus on this issue over the next year.

First, we’re going to inform legislators on the need to protect the voices and the choices of teachers by doing away with these restrictive drop periods. Teachers should be able to leave CCEA whenever they want, just like they can join whenever they want.

Second, we’re going to expand this campaign statewide next year. It’s not just teachers in Clark County who have the restrictive July 1-15 drop period. Teachers in Washoe County and elsewhere around the state face a similar restriction.

This year, we let thousands of teachers know that they have a choice when it comes to membership in CCEA, and over the next year we’re going to let thousands more know about this option as well.

And of course, none of this is possible without your generous support. So on behalf of NPRI and the thousands of teachers who’ve been empowered with this information: Thank you.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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