Can You Ever Beat the House in Vegas?

Union representation is supposed to be the culmination of a democratic process. If you get 30% of a bargaining unit to sign a petition you can force an election, and from that point on the majority rules.

Unless you are a school support worker in Las Vegas.

Teamsters Local 14 defeated the incumbent NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) in a representation election in 2006, and is still on the outside looking in.

At that time, a union had to win a majority of the bargaining unit, not just a majority of the votes cast, so ESEA remained in power. The Teamsters challenged that rule, until the state labor relations board finally decided to make a change. Under the new rules, the Teamsters took 82 percent of a new vote last December.

But ESEA challenged the new rules in court, and the case still sits in the state supreme court docket, awaiting a decision.

In the meantime both sides have been busy. ESEA has been busy forcing out its executive director, convening a review board against its president, floating a disaffiliation (quickly quashed by NEA), and losing members in droves.

The Teamsters’ activity has a lot to do with that last item. Tired of waiting for legal action, the union has another avenue to gain exclusive representation: showing it has a majority of the bargaining unit as dues-paying members while ESEA has not.

The latter is easy to prove. The Clark County School District has a list of employees whose union dues are being deducted from their paychecks. Here are the results:


Only 34.8 percent of the unit belongs to ESEA. Even accounting for the handful of workers who pay their dues directly to ESEA it falls far short of a majority. So it is simply up to the Teamsters to sign up about 6,000 bargaining unit members to win exclusive representation without a court decision.

The Teamsters claim to be about 1,000 short of that goal. That’s a steep hill to climb, and it’s inevitable that ESEA would challenge the petition, so it all might end up in another trek through the Nevada legal system. This, evidently, is what democracy looks like.