By Ben Velderman
LAS VEGAS – The Clark County Education Association scored a huge financial victory earlier this year when it refused to give up schedule pay raises in order to help their financially distressed school district avoid laying off teachers.
The teachers union argued that since those raises were written into their collective bargaining agreement, the Clark County School District was legally obligated to provide them.
The CCEA’s hardline, inflexible attitude rightly earned the union a lot of grief from taxpayers, but it also delivered a financial windfall when an arbitrator sided with the union.
Now, the union is learning that rigid adherence to a collectively bargained contract can cut both ways.
According to the collective bargaining agreement, the district is obligated to pay Teachers Health Trust, the insurance provider for employee health insurance, $546 a month per teacher.
But now THT – an insurance company created and operated by the CCEA – wants the district to withhold more money from teachers’ paychecks in order to cover increasing health insurance rates, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But district officials are refusing.
“They wanted to put their hands into teachers’ pockets but tell us to do it for them,” school district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said Thursday.
Even if school district officials wanted to help out the THT, it is illegal for them “to go into the payroll system and deduct more money from a teacher’s paycheck,” CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones told the paper.
It would seem that the CCEA was so focused on getting pay raises for members during contract negotiations that it forgot to ask for more money for health insurance. That makes this a union-only problem.
As noted earlier, the union won the contract dispute in arbitration, but “the terms won by the union did not include an increase to teachers’ insurance rates, an increase to the district’s contributions to the trust or benefit reduction,” the paper reports.
That’s a pretty big ”oops,” but don’t expect union officials to meekly accept the blame for this blunder. Instead, they’re painting the district’s refusal to increase paycheck deductions as “an attempt to quash the health trust,” writes the Review-Journal.
We take school officials at their word when they say it’s against the law for them to withhold money from teachers’ paychecks without their approval. Jones told the newspaper that teachers have not voted on the matter, so the THT’s request is illegal.
Even if the request were legal, why should school officials volunteer to do the union’s dirty work? If the CCEA had shown a little cooperation and flexibility in helping school officials solve the district’s budget woes a few months, maybe CCSD leaders would be more willing to return the favor.
But they wanted to play hardball, and now have the audacity to whine when they think CCSD officials are playing hardball in return. What irony.
The union is learning that he who lives by the collective bargaining agreement can (financially) perish by it, too.