Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego will have a long-awaited chance to remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses from their school. State labor board officials had refused to schedule the teachers’ requested election until the board resolved “blocking charges” union officials filed against the school. Gompers teachers petitioned the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) for a decertification election back in January 2020, but union officials filed strategically-timed unfair labor practice charges against the school to block the vote. Under PERB’s rules, any pending litigation against an employer is automatically presumed to affect employees’ desire to remove a union, so PERB blocked the teacher’s vote.
The petitioners obtained free representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, who argued the behavior alleged by the union’s charges had not affected the teachers’ desire to remove the union. A PERB administrator refused to grant the teachers a vote without even holding a hearing on the merits of the union’s blocking charges.
Foundation attorneys appealed that decision, arguing the policy of automatically accepting union blocking charges without investigation was an unacceptable infringement on workers’ freedom to choose their own workplace representatives.
The Board refused to overturn its policy. As a result, the teachers were forced to wait nearly two years for the charges to be dropped. Now that the union has dropped the charges as part of a settlement agreement among the parties, PERB finally scheduled a decertification election. Ballots will be mailed to Gompers teachers on September 8, and the teachers will have until October 4 to return them.
This is the first time in recent years the SDEA will be subject to a secret ballot vote at Gompers. The union took over in January 2019 through a “card check” unionization drive. During a card check drive, professional union organizers approach employees, often in the presence of union militants, and demand they sign cards that count as official “votes” for unionization.
Card Check is notoriously a far less reliable way of gauging employee support for unionization, as pressure from coworkers and union organizers often force workers to sign off on unionization they would not have accepted had their decision been private. According to Gompers teacher Jessica Chapman, the union “got signatures using deceptive tactics…unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.”
“Finally, the teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy will get their long-sought-after vote to remove union officials, but the PERB should never have allowed union officials to manipulate the process for so long just to avoid a secret ballot vote,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “The PERB’s no-evidence-required rule for union blocking charges is just one of many examples of biased labor laws and regulations that benefit union officials looking to shield themselves from accountability from the workers they supposedly represent.”
“Now that they finally get their vote, the teachers of GPA should be on guard against union misinformation and coercive tactics during the mail ballot election,” added Mix. “Unfortunately, there is a long and documented history of union bosses’ willingness to say or do anything just to maintain their own power, even if it means selling out the very people they claim to represent.”