Gompers teachers sought to remove union as early as 2019, but union bosses stymied last attempt with unproven allegations and pressure from elected officials

San Diego, CA (June 8, 2023) – Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in the Chollas View neighborhood of San Diego, have successfully voted to remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses from the school. The educators received free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

While Gompers teachers have been seeking to exercise their right to free themselves from the SDEA union’s control as early as 2019, the current effort began in March 2023 after a majority of Gompers educators signed a petition asking the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to hold an employee vote on whether to oust the union (known as a “union decertification vote”). After collecting ballots from Gompers educators from May 10 to June 6, PERB yesterday announced a majority of teachers voted to remove the union.

Union Tactics Delayed Earlier Efforts to Vote Out Unwanted Union

The initial union decertification effort took place not long after SDEA officials gained power at the school in January 2019 via “card check,” a process that bypasses the traditional secret-ballot vote system to install a union. Gompers made an impressive transition to being a union-free charter school in 2005 after years of being plagued by unresponsive union bureaucracies, violence, and poor academic achievement, so many teachers and parents viewed the reinstallation of union monopoly power at the school with suspicion. Some accused SDEA agents of actively sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation and needlessly disparaging the school’s leadership.

Gompers teachers’ first effort to eliminate the SDEA union stemmed from an October 2019 petition that had the backing of the requisite number of teachers to prompt the PERB to hold a decertification vote. However, SDEA union bosses attempted to avert the election by filing so-called “blocking charges” containing allegations of employer misconduct.

Union officials often manipulate “blocking charges” at the PERB and other state and federal labor relations agencies to stifle worker attempts to eliminate unpopular union “representation.” Despite the PERB never holding a hearing into whether SDEA union bosses’ claims had any merit or whether they were related to the workers’ dissatisfaction with the union, PERB officials denied a decertification election to Gompers educators in October 2020.

Foundation attorneys’ case defending the first petition to remove SDEA union agents from the school also sought to overturn PERB Regulation 32752, which requires PERB agents and attorneys to accept union bosses’ “blocking charge” allegations as true – a stipulation almost guaranteeing union defeat of any worker attempt to vote a union out.

“I chose to work at a school that didn’t have a union and now they’ve come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work,” Kristie Chiscano, then a Gompers chemistry teacher and proponent of the decertification effort, said at the time.

Union Agents Targeted Teachers Who Led Effort to Vote Out Union

Even worse, shortly after the PERB’s ruling halting the original decertification effort, Chiscano and another Gompers educator filed charges maintaining that SDEA agents targeted them on social media for opposing the union hierarchy. California law makes it illegal for union officials to intimidate or retaliate against employees who exercise their right to refrain from union membership.

Union boss-aligned state legislators even chimed in to pressure Gompers management to give in to union demands. In a letter to Gompers management, then-Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (now an AFL-CIO president) attacked the National Right to Work Foundation for simply providing legal aid to Gompers educators as they sought to exercise their right to hold a decertification election. Gonzalez was best known during her tenure for authoring AB5, a California law that drastically reduced opportunities for freelance workers and independent contractors across the state.

Teachers’ Union Decertification Efforts Expose Massive Power of California Public Sector Unions

Gompers educators submitted the March 2023 petition at the earliest time permitted by California labor regulations, which immunize union officials from employee-led decertification efforts for all but a tiny window while union contracts are active. Now, nearly four years after their original effort began, Gompers educators have finally voted to free themselves from union control. Gompers teachers and Foundation attorneys are still prepared to fight any objections the union files in an attempt to throw out the result.

“Gompers educators witnessed that SDEA union officials were not acting in the best interests of the students or the school community at large, and fought courageously for years to bring back the independent environment that made Gompers a success,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While we at the Foundation are proud to have helped them win the fight, the hardship these teachers faced just to vote out a union they disapproved of should raise serious questions about union officials’ privileges under California law.”

“Gompers teachers endured years of legal roadblocks just to exercise their rights, and that’s to say nothing of the retaliation they faced from union officials and even pressure from union-label policymakers,” Mix added. “No special interest group in California, or in America, should wield this kind of power over teachers and the public education system.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Jun 8, 2023 in News Releases