Teachers Unions

A Rigged System Is Keeping a California Charter School Under Union Rule

First the union invaded, now it refuses to leave.

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In 2004, Vincent Riveroll became the principal of Gompers Middle School in San Diego. On his first day, he was approached by a student who was puzzled by his outfit. "Why are you wearing a suit?" the child asked. "It's just going to get ripped when you break up a fight."

Gompers was part of an all too familiar pattern of inner-city schools suffering from routine violence, low attendance, and poor academic performance. It had been that way for years, creating a sense of hopelessness that wore down even the most committed teachers.

Every year, Gompers lost more than half its staff. Parents and reform-minded faculty wanted to keep standout teachers from leaving by rewarding them for their performance, but San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union officials fiercely opposed any changes to the pay structure, which was based strictly on seniority.

With union officials unwilling to give in, and with falling performance threatening to shut its doors, Gompers had few options. As current teacher Jessica Chapman put it, "Gompers faced three choices: close, be taken over by the state, or transition to a charter school."

A majority of Gompers parents and teachers joined together and won approval from the school board in 2005 to convert Gompers into a charter school. Free from union control and intransigence, Gompers finally flourished. Test scores rose, the violence was curtailed, and teachers dedicated to the charter school's mission were hired.

In the years since, the teacher retention rate at Gompers Preparatory Academy has been above 85 percent. It attracts teachers who want to work at a charter school free from the constraints of a contract dictated by union bosses. Despite these encouraging results, California Teachers Association (CTA) officials never accepted the decision of teachers and parents to transition Gompers to a public charter school, which freed it from union control.

Teachers union officials, including many at the CTA, have long opposed charter schools, lobbying against them with countless millions in dues money. Charter schools like Gompers threaten union officials' control over the taxpayer-funded education system, in which the government grants union officials monopoly bargaining power over all teachers, even those opposed to unionization, to impose a one-size-fits-all contract.

So despite the success Gompers had achieved since shedding the union, union officials turned to a controversial tactic known as "card check" to reimpose its monopoly control over teachers and the school. Under California law, union organizers can bypass any secret ballot election by pressuring, and often misleading, enough of the employees to sign union cards that are then counted as "votes" for the union.

According to Chapman, union agents "got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter.…Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our [school] leadership was denied the right to get involved. So in January 2019 unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote."

Chapman was hardly alone in her opposition to the sudden imposition of the union without an actual vote. Kristie Chiscano, a teacher who left a career as a surgeon to serve Gompers students, sought a school that wasn't unionized: "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 and many of her fellow teachers wanted a secret-ballot vote to remove the union. Under California law, enforced by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), public employees must wait one year to request a decertification vote after a union is certified. Chiscano and others collected enough signatures from teachers (over the 30 percent needed) and planned to file the petition with the PERB soon after the one-year waiting period expired.

But when the union got wind of the teachers' push for that vote, SDEA lawyers preemptively filed "blocking charges" against the school, leading to the PERB's regional attorney blocking the decertification petition from moving forward. Now, a year after the petition, the election is still blocked because the board's rules favor union officials over independent-minded employees.

Under PERB policy, public employees' right to decertify can be blocked even if the employees who signed and filed the petition are not alleged to have done anything wrong. In deciding whether to block a vote, proof of the union officials' allegations is irrelevant because the PERB must treat them as true. So when Chiscano appealed the regional attorney's ruling blocking the decertification election, the PERB in Sacramento upheld the block because the regional official was right to assume the veracity of the union's allegations with no independent investigation.

With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Chiscano and her fellow teachers continue to fight for a vote, now two years after the union was installed without a vote and over a year after the teachers requested the decertification election. Further, foundation attorneys recently filed charges against SDEA officials for illegal retaliation against Chiscano and Chapman, after union officials published social media posts attacking the teachers for seeking a vote to remove the union.

The teachers' struggle would likely infuriate one famous union official, their school's namesake. Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, believed in voluntary unionism, not coercion. He said: "The workers of America adhere to voluntary institutions in preference to compulsory systems which are held to be not only impractical but a menace to their rights, welfare and their liberty."

Yet today, rather than working to win the voluntary support of teachers, union officials have fully embraced the compulsion Gompers abhorred, even going so far as to block teachers' request to simply hold an up-or-down vote on whether they want union representation at all.

NEXT: The Constitutional Argument Against Trump's Senate Trial Is Convenient. Is It Also Wrong?

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  1. Just FYI, the red color that pretty much all teacher’s unions use is no accident.

    1. It helps to hide the blood splatter from ‘friendly discussions’.

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  3. And Biden wants to strengthen unions. What a surprise.

    1. As does BLM in a hilarious irony.

  4. How dare you question the integrity of our vital institutions! Sedition! Treason!

  5. First the union invaded, now it refuses to leave.

    Sounds like a bunch of insurgents.

    1. I agree, the title is very biased in the way it states things.

  6. First the union invaded, now it refuses to leave.

    Fuck! Missed the obvious Civil War joke!

    1. Fucking carpetbaggers!

  7. ” by pressuring, and often misleading, enough of the employees to sign union cards ”

    In other words, not just a few percent.
    One has to to wonder whether a good deal of teachers were in fact in support of the union.

    1. Why not hold a secret-ballot election and find out?

      1. The union might agree with that, but only if it’s mail-in.

  8. Our sister company in Ohio had a union vote this year. It went 56-9 against it. They talked like it would be close but common sense Midwesterners know better. Unfortunately I work at a union plant but since I now work from home it really isn’t an issue. And I get along with the shop guys because most know better.

  9. California is a big state, can’t they just drag the bodies out in the desert and dump them?

    1. Only if they bury them six feet deep. It IS California.

      1. And six feet apart.

  10. Under California law, union organizers can bypass any secret ballot election by pressuring, and often misleading, enough of the employees to sign union cards that are then counted as “votes” for the union.

    If the teachers signed this card, they only have themselves to blame. My sympathy is highly tempered here.

    1. According to Chapman, union agents “got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter.…Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our [school] leadership was denied the right to get involved.

      And all of this stuff was passed for the explicit purposes of “protecting workers”. It’s like people have never watched a Sally Field movie. The above law was passed so that company management couldn’t use intimidation tactics against the workers, keeping them from joining a union.

      You get what you pay for here, kids.

      1. And that law should be abolished because unions threaten and lie to workers to get them to sign those cards.

    2. Unions fucking *lie* to get people to sign cards. Yes, they shouldn’t have signed anything without knowing exactly what it was, but they use straight up dishonest tactics to get people to sign. This is a problem in the trucking industry too.

  11. It would be terrible if some of those union imposing assholes caught a bullet or five.

  12. This story is infuriating, I’m sure doubly so for the teachers and parents of that school.

    What is the enforcement mechanism? What happens if the teachers and administration of the school just ignore the union. How does this board enforce its rulings? Can they fine them? Take the school over? Arrest people?

    The normal mechanism for a union to enforce its wishes is the threat of a strike. If they really have no support, the school could ignore the union’s negotiators and let them call for a strike. When 3 teachers take to the picket lines and the other 50 go to work, the union is suddenly irrelevant.

    I suppose they have these bizarre “protections” that go beyond normal rights of association… it just seems odd to force people to accept representation they don’t want and cram them into a contract they did not accept.

    1. I believe that once a union is in place, all kinds of federal laws kick in which force you to deal with them. There is no ‘not dealing with’ the Union.

    2. What happens if the teachers and administration of the school just ignore the union.

      Sympathy strikes.

    3. I read the article in the voice of Neal Boortz. *The YOON-yuhn*

      Otters gonna ott.
      Statists gonna state.

      1. Is he still around? I was introduced to his show when I moved to Atlanta in 1991. He was the first public commenter that I had ever heard claim the Libertarian label.

    4. The union would sue and win. If they ignored the courts ruling, they’d be found in contempt and go to jail.

  13. In 2004, Vincent Riveroll became the principal of Gompers Middle School in San Diego. On his first day, he was approached by a student who was puzzled by his outfit. “Why are you wearing a suit?” the child asked. “It’s just going to get ripped when you break up a fight.”

    And when he was a little baby did his mother take him to a civil rights march where he cried ‘fweedom!’?

  14. According to Chapman, union agents “got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter.…Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our [school] leadership was denied the right to get involved. So in January 2019 unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.”

    So . . . beat the shit out of the union reps when they show up. Every time. Just grab the out of the cars throw them on the ground and start whaling. Show up to their houses en masse and scream and yell and threaten them. Vandalize their property.

    Its all legal when they do it.

    1. Have you danced at Jacob’s Pillow?

  15. Welcome to communist amerika.

  16. Gompers was part of an all too familiar pattern of inner-city schools suffering from routine violence, low attendance, and poor academic performance.

    Seems like the sort of place where it wouldn’t be too hard to find people willing to give other people a beating for a few bucks.

  17. “According to Chapman, union agents “got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter.…Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our [school] leadership was denied the right to get involved. So in January 2019 unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.”

    Sounds an awful lot like that new crime called “questioning the results of an election.”

    Careful, Reason.

    You can bet your sweet little cosmopolitan behinds that Preet the Pajeet is rock hard and ready to fuck.

  18. California Teachers Association = Organized Crime

  19. Close the school, start over.

  20. All public sector unions should be illegal. Unlike the private sector where the company represents the owners (shareholders) and managers are held accountable by the Board of Directors, in the public sector, no one represents the owners (taxpayers) and no one is held to account. Bureaucrats, with no skin in the game and who are all but impossible to fire, agree to Union contracts that do real harm to taxpayers. Elected officials rubber stamp them to pander for votes and campaign contributions knowing that when the financial bomb goes off, they will be long gone and not be scratched by the shrapnel. (Illinois pensions are a fine example of such delayed disaster.) The work rules that benefit terrible teachers and hurt good ones add insult to injury and ensure that our children receive the worst education for the most money.

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