As a Teacher, Why I Fight for Freedom from Union ‘Representation’

Written by Jessica Chapman

On the way to an interview in 2013, the freeway exit sign said, “Home.” It was prophetic. Gompers Preparatory Academy became my school home that day. As a teacher who believes in putting children first, I fit right into the Gompers’ family.

But our school home was ambushed in November 2018.

The invasion started on a Friday morning. A letter – written by a “committee” of eight teachers – was placed in our mailboxes. They claimed their efforts would make Gompers “even greater.”

The letter perplexed me.

I confronted one of the “committee” members and was handed a petition – a legal document in support of forming a union with the San Diego Education Association. My heart sank. 

I immediately went to leadership. They learned of the invasion the same way I did – a letter – on the same day.

Our school home, where we grew as educators, worked as a team, and pursued a mission, became a battlefield. Since that day, it’s been Us vs. Them: Gompers devoted leadership, parents, and staff against the union “committee.”

Prior to 2005, Gompers was chronically failing and run by unions. Gang fights and police presence were standard. Teachers quit after weeks or sometimes days in the classroom. Learning took a backseat to survival.

After years of failure, Gompers faced three choices: close, be taken over by the state, or transition to a charter school. The parents of our community rallied around an inspiring man, Director Vincent Riveroll, fought against SDUSD and the union and formed the life-changing Gompers Preparatory Academy Charter.

Over the last 15 years, Gompers transformed into a thriving and safe school home. We boast a 100% graduation rate. In partnership with the University of California at San Diego, over 220 of our graduates have earned full-ride college scholarships, and Director Riveroll was honored by the San Diego NAACP for his innovative and successful work in inner city education.

We’ve been successful because of our culture, our staff, our community and our commitment to our mottoes “Whatever it takes” and “With Students First.” These qualities are essential to the success of Gompers, but now the union is eroding them.

Since the union invasion, it’s become clear the “committee” went behind the backs of the most senior teachers and dedicated staff at Gompers, including myself, to sneak in a union. Gompers leadership has an open door policy, yet the “committee” of just eight teachers formed without any attempt at conversation, collaboration, or transparency. They got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter. Two of the “committee” members no longer even teach at Gompers.

Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our 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.

The union is powerful, and once it got its foothold, Gompers’ loving teachers were silenced. The union is now tearing our Gompers family apart, splitting teachers, hurting families, and sabotaging our incredible leadership.

Now every time I come to work, I face divisiveness, hateful rhetoric, and political maneuvering. It’s intimidating, but Plato said, “Silence is consent,” so I’m fighting back with many other teachers and families.

After struggling through a year of the union’s backstabbing, name-calling, and flat out lies, we collected teacher signatures and filed for a decertification vote in hopes of being freed from this union invasion. This is fully within our rights as employees supposedly being represented, but the union filed “unfair labor practice” charges against Gompers, which they’ve used to delay our chances of receiving a vote.

The irony: A union that claims to be democratic and protectors of the rights of teachers is silencing teachers, blocking our right to vote, and harming our students.

For seven years now I’ve taken that “Home” exit on the way to Gompers, and I’ve taken my place in an awe-inspiring school family that has radically and positively changed my life and the lives of countless students. We’re inspired by the powerful words engraved on the sidewalk just inside the gate at Gompers – words spoken by a 2005 student while she fought for Gompers’ life-changing transformation at a San Diego Unified School Board meeting. She asked, “Don’t we deserve good things?”

For seven years, I’ve answered her question with, “Yes, you do.”

That’s why I fight. And it’s the reason I’ll continue to stand up to unions and “committees” who put money before kids and politics before futures.

This article was originally published by California Globe


Photo by GotCredit via Flickr