Union bosses stymied last attempt with unproven allegations and pressure from elected officials, majority of teachers now back new effort
San Diego, CA (March 13, 2023) – Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in the Chollas View neighborhood of San Diego, have banded together again to exercise their right to vote San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses out of power at the school.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Gompers computer teacher Sean Bentz just submitted a petition to the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), requesting the agency hold a vote among his colleagues on whether to oust the union. The petition contains signatures of a majority of the teachers under the SDEA union’s control.
Bentz’s petition marks the second time in just over three years that Gompers educators have attempted to boot the SDEA union from the school. Gompers chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano submitted a decertification petition with Foundation legal aid in October 2019. Despite this petition also having the backing of the requisite number of teachers to spur a decertification vote, 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 Chiscano and her colleagues in October 2020.
State Labor Agency’s Rule Aided Union in Blocking Vote
Chiscano’s 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.
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 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.
“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,” Chiscano 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 attacked the National Right to Work Foundation simply for 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
Sean Bentz filed the new decertification petition renewing the fight to oust the union 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. But the new decertification attempt will likely face the same roadblocks of “blocking charges” as the old one.
“The new decertification effort at Gompers Preparatory Academy pits concerned educators against California’s most entrenched special interest – public sector union bosses,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “In their last endeavor, Gompers teachers, who simply wanted to exercise their right to vote on whether SDEA union bosses deserved to remain in power, faced specious allegations meant to block the vote, union attacks on social media, and even pressure from union-label politicians.”
“Foundation attorneys will proudly fight alongside Gompers teachers to vindicate their rights, but ultimately this effort should expose how California’s labor laws prioritize union bosses’ desire for control over schools and other public services far above the rights of the employees who provide these services,” Mix added.
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.