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September 1, 2014

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School support staff union — one of five affiliated with CCSD — says it’s ‘growing every day’

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Jean Reid Norman

Sue Schucker, a library aide, left, and Randy T. Morris, a painter for the Clark County School District, picket in front of the Edward Greer Education Center, 2832 E. Flamingo Road, as the Clark County School Board meets on Thursday. They are members of the Education Support Employees Association, the union that represents school support staff.

Teachers aren’t the only unionized employee group in the Clark County School District.

The nation’s fifth-largest school system has five employee unions representing teachers, support staff, police officers, police administrators and school administrators.

Here are their membership figures, as estimated by the School District by calculating union dues automatically deducted from their payrolls.

Police Administrators: 100 percent of the seven police administrators are part of the Police Administrators Association.

School Administrators: 98 percent of the 1,276 school administrators in CCSD are part of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees.

Police Officers: 97 percent of the 148 school police officers are part of the Police Officers Association of the CCSD.

Support Staff: 49 percent of the 10,949 support staff employees are part of the Education Support Employees Association.

John Carr, president of the support staff union, argued the district’s figures were misleading because they don't calculate employees on leave and all of the new recruits the support staff union and the teachers union garnered during September. The district pulled data from the Sept. 4 paycheck.

Carr said last year, his union saw a record low number of opt-out letters for the first time in Carr’s 19 years with the organization. Fewer people — less than a third of the 400 members who usually opt-out — dropped out of the union this summer, he said.

Furthermore, the union has recruited 10 percent more members than it lost this past year, Carr said. He attributed the union’s recruiting success to their most recent contract approval, which netted 11,000 members between a 4 percent and a 9 percent pay raise. The union also received $2 million from the National Education Association to help with its recruiting efforts.

However, Carr acknowledged that “what we negotiated would go away if we don’t maintain our membership.”

Carr remembers a time when the School District had 13,000 support staff employees and his union had 7,200 members. However, the district has lost more than 2,000 support staff employees since the recession, he said.

The lower number of employees, as well as resignations and retirements from an aging workforce, hurt the union’s membership levels, which at one point hovered around 65 percent, Carr said. Employees also left because they couldn’t afford union dues during the recession, he said.

With all the new recruits, however, Carr estimates about 51 percent of the district’s support staff employees are union members — just slightly above the state-mandated 50 percent threshold to maintain collective bargaining rights.

“Are we worried we’re below 50 percent? Hell no,” Carr said. “ESEA is on firm ground and growing every day. ESEA is stronger now than we’ve been in a long time.”

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