On March 27, 2020, educators at San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) are urging California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) officials to allow a secret-ballot vote to go forward that could potentially remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses from power at the school. The educators are receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in this case.
GPA teachers filed a response to union “blocking charges” brought against the school which could delay, for another year, the teachers’ right to hold a decertification election.
SDEA officials set up the union at the school in January 2019 after carrying out a controversial “card check” drive, circumventing the more reliable method of a secret-ballot election whether to decide if a union is going to be the monopoly representative of all educators at the school. GPA transitioned from being a regular public school to a charter school in 2005 as a consequence of a campaign launched by parents, teachers, and administrators who believed that school district and union bureaucracies were providing students’ quality education, while also failing to keep gang violence and teacher attrition at the school in check.
GPA parents and educators have accused union officials of fomenting division at the school, by supporting anti-charter school legislative initiatives, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and crafting plots to keep the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students excel.
Dr. Kristie Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students at GPA, began sending around a petition for a vote to decertify the union back in October 2019. She was able to obtain the signatures of well over the number of her fellow teachers needed to activate a PERB-supervised secret-ballot vote to kick the union out.
However, in December of 2019, union officials preemptively filed a charge against the school aiming “that the certification year be extended.” That would infringe on the educators’ right to remove the union from their workplace for another year despite not showing any evidence or even an allegation that any educator violated the law. Meritless “blocking charges” are a regular tactic union lawyers use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that could potentially result in the removal of union officials from power.
Dr. Chiscano turned to free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to decertify the union, and is now fighting against “blocking charges.” The response filed with the PERB contends that the allegations union officials are making against the school’s leadership are not related to the decertification effort and should not serve as a justification to revoke the teachers’ right to a secret-ballot decertification vote. “PERB should thus proceed with a secret-ballot election as soon as practicable so Petitioner Chiscano and her fellow Gompers employees can exercise their right” to vote the union out, the response asserts.
In the meantime, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has jumped into the fray by siding with SDEA union bosses. In a letter to GPA leadership, she attacked the Right to Work Foundation for providing legal aid to GPA educators as they seek to exercise their right to hold a decertification election. The Foundation has historically provided legal aid to thousands of teachers, including many charter school teachers, all over the nation.
Gonzalez, who is beholden to union bosses, introduced California’s controversial AB 5 measure, which union lobbyists wrote and crafted to impose union monopoly representation and forced union dues on independent contractors across the Golden State. The bill has already generated a significant downturn in economic opportunities for workers in California.
“SDEA union bosses are continuing to manipulate legal procedures to keep the educators they claim to represent trapped in union ranks instead of just letting them exercise their right to hold a decertification election,” remarked National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will continue to fight for Dr. Chiscano and her fellow educators until they are able to decide, free of coercion, who will speak for them in the workplace.”
Mix added: “All these educators seek is a secret ballot vote to see whether a majority of their colleagues want the disruptive union out of their school. It is disgraceful but not surprising that Assemblywoman Gonzalez, who is elected by secret ballot, is opposing these teachers’ attempt to exercise their legal rights.”