Teachers at a charter school on the eastern edge of San Diego Unified now belong to a union, a rarity among such schools locally.

Board members at Harriet Tubman Village Charter School voted Wednesday to officially recognize the San Diego Education Association, which also represents San Diego Unified teachers, as Tubman teachers’ representative. The vote followed more than a year of union organizing at the school.

Tubman teachers said they were concerned about not being able to air concerns without worrying about retribution.

Teachers at most charter schools are not unionized. In fact, proponents often tout their freedoms from usual school district rules, including union contracts.

There are exceptions. Darnall Charter School, for instance, has long been unionized. Critics argue that the lack of union rights has left charter teachers more vulnerable to arbitrary firing and driven higher turnover rates at charters, where teachers tend to be younger.

But the push to bring unions to more charter schools, especially those that have already been operating without unions, has been halting in San Diego. A spate of firings spurred another drive to unionize at the King/Chavez schools in Barrio Logan, which has yet to succeed.

Union organizer Morgan Thornberry said the Tubman board now has the option of bargaining a new, unique contract specifically designed for Tubman, or agreeing to follow the standard contract that the San Diego Education Association holds with San Diego Unified teachers until a new agreement is struck.


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