Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions?

By David Unger

As this issue goes to press, President Trump’s chain-link fence around the White House has been turned into a protest gallery. Posters, signs, and tags speak old and new names that have become tragically familiar: Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. The demand—voiced in protests across the country and even the world—is for a fundamental change in the way society polices and treats Black people. #BlackLivesMatter #DefundPolice, #FundBlackFutures, #CopsOutOfSchools, the messages scream.

But half a block from the White House, another small makeshift gallery has been erected on the plywood nailed over the broken windows of a burned office building lobby. A different theme dominates there: #DropIUPA, #NoCopUnions, #CopsOutOfTheAFL. There’s no talk of unions on Trump’s fence, but here, at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO at 815 Black Lives Matter Plaza (formerly 16th Street) many of the signs call for unions to look inside our own house. The fight over the future of policing, mass incarceration, and for Black lives is at the very doorstep of the “house of labor”. While America is having the deepest reckoning in our lifetimes about police violence against Black people and institutional racism, unions also must grapple with what to do about the hundreds of thousands of police and correction union members who are active participants in America’s systemically racist justice system, from policing to mass incarceration. Public focus on police unions as a major obstacle to any reform is growing. Unions are being challenged, from within and without, about whether the labor movement can really be for justice and in solidarity with the fight against systemic racism if it has police officers, a significant instrument of that racism, in its ranks. Can Black Lives Matter to labor while it represents police and carceral workers?

These are not new questions—they are as old as the modern labor movement—but they carry new intensity. In 2015, following the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, a small but growing number of union locals, racial justice activists within the labor movement, and policing scholars began focusing on the role of unions in supporting mass incarceration and propping up systemic racism. In the intervening years, we have seen both the rise of Trumpism and the rise in popularity of democratic socialism; both the Supreme Court attack on the foundations of public sector unionism and the rise of teachers strikes and of bargaining for the common good; both the most anti-union administration and the most pro-union platform discussions in recent history. We are also amidst a global pandemic leading to mass unemployment that is disproportionately killing Black people, laying bare the intersecting forces of class warfare and systemic racism. George Floyd shouted the words “I Can’t Breathe” only six years after Eric Garner did, but they were heard in a very different world.

Since late May 2020, the leaders of police unions have filled the screens—as they always do after a police shooting—defending the officer who killed George Floyd, applauding the officers in Buffalo who violently pushed a 75-year old protestor, or decrying those protesting brutality as “terrorists” and “thugs.”[1] The role of police and carceral unions has moved from the sidelines to the headlines to the mainstream— from Trevor Noah on the popular Daily Show naming police union contracts as a major obstacle to accountability and reform, to anti-police petitions from union members to their leadership, to the first expulsion of a police union from a labor council in Seattle.

In this crossroads moment, the risks to the labor movement of both action and inaction are significant. Only 10.3 percent of workers belong to unions, a number propped up by a heavily unionized public sector including police and carceral workers. How the labor movement grapples with emerging demands and questions, how it weighs and acts on its principles “to vanquish oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms; and to join with all persons, of whatever nationality or faith, who cherish the cause of democracy and the call of solidarity,”[2] will impact its relevance, power, and role going forward.

The Growth of the Carceral State

The United States’ systems of policing and incarceration have exploded over the past two decades. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Every day more than two million people—predominantly people of color—are incarcerated in the United States. An additional 6.6 million are on probation, parole, or under a deportation order.[3] Overall spending on the criminal legal system has been estimated between $185 and $265 billion a year nationwide. Spending on policing alone exceeds $110 billion per year—a nearly 400 percent increase over the past forty years.[4]

American policing is a complicated network of local, state, and federal police departments and agencies. In 2016, there were nearly 600,000 full-time employees working in more than 12,000 local police departments, 350,000 in thousands of sheriffs’ departments, and 100,000 in federal law enforcement agencies.[5] Supporting the massive criminal legal system are almost 80,000 prosecutors, 500,000 corrections officers, and almost 100,000 probation and parole officers.[6]

At least 2 million workers are publicly employed by the carceral state, more than the auto, steel, aluminum, and rubber industries combined. This leaves out the myriad support workers, including maintenance workers, construction workers, nurses and teachers in prisons and jails, custodians and administrative assistants in police departments, as well as those working in the small but growing private prison industry. Arresting and jailing people is one of America’s biggest industries.

This growth did not just happen. It was driven by a systematic war on poor and working people—especially Black and brown poor and working people—on multiple, intersecting fronts, like the wars on crime and on drugs, neoliberal austerity and the destruction of the post-World War II welfare system. It coincided with a period of massive deindustrialization and a forty-year war on the labor movement. Factories closed and prisons opened in their place as the primary job creators in towns and counties. Until 1980, governments spent roughly the same on criminal justice and cash welfare; since 1980, law and order spending has ballooned almost unabated, while welfare spending has steadily declined.[7] Each of these deepened the structural inequality and racism of both the economy and the carceral system, and most had bipartisan support from politicians jockeying to be seen as tough on crime. Austerity and budget cutting always stopped at the precinct door.

Most Police Are Union Members 

The carceral workforce is among the most heavily unionized in the country. An estimated 60 to 80 percent of police officers nationwide are unionized,[8] twice the 34 percent unionization rate for the entire public sector, and at least ten times the rate of private sector unionization.[9] While the rest of the carceral workforce is not as heavily unionized, rates still generally outpace the rest of the public and private sectors.

Over 80 percent of police labor organizations are not in the AFL-CIO, including the two biggest police unions, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).[10] Corrections is similarly dominated by independent unions like the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) or New York City Corrections Officers Benevolent Association (COBA).

It would be a mistake, however, to think of police and carceral unionism as solely outside the house of labor. The 100,000-member International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) is part of the AFL-CIO. More significantly, many big AFL-CIO unions represent police, corrections, probation, and parole and other carceral workers, including the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); United Steelworkers (USW); American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and so do large independent unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Teamsters.[11]

These same unions represent the bulk of unionized Black workers. They have strong histories of fighting for civil rights and immigrant rights and today are standing up for Black Lives Matter and confronting institutional racism in the criminal justice system. And they represent police and other carceral workers who are the everyday instruments of that racist justice system that perpetuates systemic inequality. This is the contradiction labor has to confront.

Bargaining Against the Common Good?

The role of police unions as a subject of discussion rarely arises until someone is killed at the knee, hand, or gun of an officer. In such instances a predictable script repeats: a union representative is often the first person on television or quoted in the news, publicly and strenuously defending the officer, putting forward the officer’s version of what occurred, placing blame on the victim by exposing selective (and sometimes inaccurate) details of the victim’s personal history. After the murder of George Floyd, the continuous action of the Minneapolis Police Federation to shield its members at the expense of the community were on full view—from backing measures to conceal misconduct complaints, to paying for a widely discredited “Warrior Training” outlawed by the city, to wielding its political power to attack anyone who called for reform as an enemy. The Minneapolis Police Federation and its bombastic president, Bob Kroll,[12] thus became the most apparent recent example of what many criminal legal reformers, scholars, and activists have long argued: police unions and union contracts play a significant role in obstructing positive reforms and blocking real accountability.

In a 2015 study, the criminal justice reform group Campaign Zero found 72 of the 81 contracts they reviewed contained provisions that can limit justice and accountability, including limits on and delays in interrogations—sometimes for weeks, allowing officers access to investigation files before answering questions, disqualifying anonymous or delayed complaints by members of the public, and erasing past incidents of misconduct from officers’ records.[13] More recent studies out of the University of Oxford in 2018 and the University of Chicago in 2019 found police contracts and bargaining rights to be directly associated with police violence and other abuses against citizens. Another forthcoming study has concluded, “from the 1950s to the 1980s, the ability of police to collectively bargain led to a substantial rise in police killings of civilians, with a greater impact on people of color.”[14] Unfortunately, against all evidence to the contrary, some in the labor movement have refused to accept that police union contracts really are a barrier to accountability. [15]

Critics of police and carceral unions also point to the immense political power of police and carceral unions, often used to fight against reform and oversight, from the use of the bully pulpit provided so readily by local and mainstream media, to lobbying and spending. Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago police unions alone have spent over $85 million on lobbying and political contributions, largely in past ten years, including supporting (and opposing) district attorneys who are often responsible for investigating police misconduct and legislators responsible for department oversight.[16] A June 2020 analysis from the Los Angeles Times, for example, found nearly all of the $2.2 million in contributions from outside groups supporting L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey against a progressive reform challenger came from police and carceral unions.[17] Police and carceral unions have also directly attacked reformers. When Kim Gardner, a Black woman, was elected St. Louis chief prosecutor, the head of a St. Louis police union pushed to remove her investigative authority, and said she “should be removed ‘by force or by choice’ because she was supposedly sowing distrust of law enforcement.”[18]

Carceral unions have also funded campaigns for policies that expand incarceration, resisting the growing bipartisan consensus to shrink the size, scope, and cost of the carceral state. In California, as the main corrections unions grew from 5,000 to 31,000 members between 1982 and 2011, they became a major political force against reforms that would decrease the prison population, and were the primary sponsors of the notorious “Three Strikes” law in the 1990s.[19] Just this year, police and carceral unions were a major force in successfully pushing New York Governor Cuomo and state legislators to roll back a newly passed bail reform law that criminal justice activists and many New York unions had sought for a number of years.[20]

Police and carceral unions have also come under fire for resisting oversight from civilian and elected leadership and judicial decrees. The Police Benevolent Association of NY has been fighting since the 1960s against civilian oversight boards—engaging in sickouts and slowdowns and massive public rallies using violent rhetoric and physical violence. In cities like Cleveland and Baltimore, the police and carceral unions have fought the reforms imposed by judicial decrees both actively in the press, and behind the scenes by ensuring officers would be protected if they ignored or waited out the new rules.[21] Police and carceral unions have been, in words of veteran labor reporter Harold Meyerson, “bargaining against the common good.”[22]

To be clear, police and carceral unions are not the sole cause, or even the principal force, in the history, culture, policies, and politics of our carceral state. As veteran labor and civil rights activist Bill Fletcher recently argued, police repression, not police unions, is the central issue.[23] Police and carceral unions could not have gained such power without support from politicians of both parties who wanted to increase the power of the carceral state in the name of “law and order,” at the continued expense of Black and poor people’s lives. There have been decades of bipartisan support for the destructive wars on drugs and crime, and for the militarization of police. Elected officials from both parties proposed budgets with money for more police and new prisons, and signed off on each contract provision and police bill of rights that stymie accountability. Police chiefs and superintendents have led fights against oversight and for increased policing powers and weaponry. This has enabled police and carceral unions to codify structural improvements that, until now, have remained as impervious to change in the political world as structural racism has been.

Labor Has to Talk about Police in Labor

It is on this complex terrain that the labor movement—in all its racial, geographic, and ideological diversity—must grapple with questions around its dual, and dueling, relationships to police unions and to the growing fight for Black lives. Every demand, be it #DefundThePolice, #ExpelThePolice, or #ReformThePolice, highlights inherent and dynamic tensions within labor.

The relationship between police and unions is not a new problem. One branch of modern policing—especially in industrial regions of the north—developed as a mechanism for strike-breaking and labor control. So in 1897, the AFL rejected a request by a group of police officers from Cleveland, saying, “It is not within the province of the trade union movement to especially organize policemen, no more than to organize militiamen, as both policemen and militiamen are often controlled by forces inimical to the labor movement.”[24] But by the 1950s, this position had softened, as police officers organized in huge numbers alongside other public sector workers, though questions would occasionally resurface at moments of national tension around policing, or on the left margins of the movement.

Now, following the murder of George Floyd, there is an unprecedented wave of calls from inside labor to expel police unions from the AFL-CIO. On June 8, 2020, the Writer’s Guild of America, East, an AFL-CIO affiliate, passed a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to begin a process to expel the IUPA, arguing the IUPA’s policies and activities “suppress individual liberties and freedom of association and oppose the basic principles of free and democratic trade unionism.”[25] The Writers Guild’s resolution led to an emergency meeting of the AFL-CIO general board. It released a statement saying, “We believe the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them…. We believe the labor movement must hold our own institutions accountable. A union must never be a shield from criminal conduct.” The generalized call to “influence” and “engage” has been met with skepticism from many in the absence of clear mechanisms for accountability and reform.[26]

In almost direct opposition to the AFL-CIO’s decision, The King Labor Council in Seattle voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) from its council. In early June, they passed a resolution giving the SPOG two weeks to, “state that racism is an issue in law enforcement and within its own organization;” work to purge racism from its ranks; commit to “police contracts that do not evade accountability;” and ensure that misconduct has consequences. With a majority of delegates deciding the SPOG did not move far enough and fast enough by the June 17 deadline, the delegates voted to expel the SPOG by a weighted vote of 55 percent in favor to 45 percent opposed.[27]

The vote highlighted some of the very real risks of expelling police and carceral unions. Among the 45 percent opposed (representing about 40,000 members), were the Seattle Building Trades and the Firefighters Association, who questioned the speed, the process, and whether the unions were actually given a chance to reform. The Firefighters president also warned, “As a labor organization, we need to be placing the lion’s share of the blame on management and our elected representatives and our corporations and not solely blaming workers. That’s an old trick.”[28] How the King Council proceeds to build support for its program of racial and economic justice from the 45 percent opposed to expelling the police is a question of deep interest and vital importance for the labor movement.

The SEIU seems to be charting a course somewhere in between. In an interview with In These Times, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, whose union counts thousands of officers among its 2 million members, acknowledged the necessity of considering expulsion, but only after the union makes a real attempt to engage its law enforcement locals and members, [29] including meeting one-on-one with leaders of its public safety and police locals, having the real, hard conversations about the structures of racism and oppression inherent in policing and incarceration, and formulating enforceable standards of accountability throughout SEIU that include fighting against racial violence and divesting from and demilitarizing the police.

Many community and labor activists are at the least highly skeptical this process can address the institutional racism that is built in to every part of the American justice system.

Limits on Bargaining Rights and Political Spending

There is a growing demand to address police union power and contracts directly. Some call for ending exclusive representation, mandating police collective bargaining sessions be open to the public; giving community groups a seat at the bargaining table; and limiting bargaining by police to wages and benefits. Others have called to bar collective bargaining over any subject that implicates use of force, including overall disciplinary matters.[30] Through both pressure and policy, still others have focused on curtailing police and carceral unions’ political activities and spending. This includes an effort initiated by a student at CUNY John Jay School of Criminal Justice that has led to 20 New York State legislators returning or donating $65,000 in police and carceral union donations since early June,[31] and a demand by the district attorneys of California’s three largest counties for the California Bar Association to prohibit district attorneys from accepting donations from police unions.[32]

Even unions that want to expel the police are quite reasonably concerned about the broader impact of limitation of any union bargaining rights in the current political climate. There is already a move by right-wing, anti-union forces to use this moment to attack public sector unionism as a whole.

The Manhattan Institute and CUNY’s own Daniel DiSalvo recently wrote in a post linking teachers unions and police unions, “The deeper problem is that unionization and collective bargaining have made it almost impossible to bring about meaningful reform of state and local government, policing included.”[33] He is not alone in advancing the argument and making that connection—it is an argument spreading not only across the twitter-verse or in conservative papers like the Washington Examiner, but has begun making its rounds across mainstream media. Editorials in dozens of papers have already started highlighting the political donations of teachers, firefighters, AFSMCE, and SEIU, asking, “As lawmakers disavow police money, why not all public sector money?”[34]

With black workers significantly overrepresented in both public sector employment and public sector unions, attacks on public sector unionism are unquestionably attacks on Black  workers’ rights and livelihoods. Given the strength of anti-union opposition, most labor leaders and many labor scholars do not believe limits can be placed on the rights of carceral workers so precisely and surgically that they do not risk all public sector unions, and with them, Black  workers and communities.

“What Does Labor Want? We Want More Schoolhouses and Less Jails!”

What was true for labor in 1893[35] remains true for the majority of the labor movement. But for the past forty years, police and carceral unions have supported moving hundreds of millions of dollars into their departments’ budgets for more police and more jails, often at the direct expense of schoolhouses and other social services. For the first time in recent memory, communities see real possibilities of clawing back the funding. In seeking to #DefundCops, Black communities—and the communities and activists that support them— are demanding not just immediate reforms to stop police killings but deeper changes to reimagine public safety. Will labor be part of this movement?

While police unions do not want their budgets and headcounts cut, law enforcement broadly is at least publicly joining with the growing public sentiment that police have been asked to do too much, and that police officers and prison guards are not the right responders to address all of society’s social challenges. As then Dallas Police Chief David Brown said, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country…. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it.…Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. …Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”[36] Recognizing how problematic it is that the three largest mental health providers in the country are jails, in 2017 a group of 12 carceral unions collectively advocated for the federal government to fund better mental health services.[37] These are the very arguments at the foundation of calls by communities to divest from policing and incarceration and invest in communities.

Can the house of labor—including police and carceral unions wherever they are affiliated—align to take advantage of this opening? Labor must play a central role in supporting the shift of funding and employment away from the carceral state and toward good, union social service jobs, including those that build supportive and affordable housing, create greater equity in public education, and expand access to health and transportation systems. This will not be easy. Fletcher, a veteran of past attempts at reform, worries that labor leaders will cower and retreat as they often have before, afraid of losing members and willing to capitulate to the conservative influence of police and carceral locals and councils within their unions.[38]

Labor’s Challenge in this Moment

While the questions confronting the labor movement are in no way new, the political and societal context most certainly is. Black communities, organizations, and union members have heard decades of passionate statements from government leaders—even police commissioners—pledging support for reforming both policing and inequality. They have not yet seen reforms that matter.

This unprecedented, Black-led, multinational uprising around #BlackLivesMatter and for racial justice in the middle of a pandemic has changed the political landscape. Activists are asking generational questions about systemic racism in the carceral state, in the capitalist economy, and in our labor movement—and will not be satisfied with minor reforms. We are in, as SEIU President Henry called it, a “Which side are you on?” moment.[39]

Our multinational labor movement is being asked if we will join this movement for a radical shift in how our country treats Black people and for a radical realignment in policing, incarceration, and funding for the public good. The uprising is making our movement confront not only our relationship with police and carceral work, but the inadequacy of our previous commitments to justice. How we answer these questions may well determine the relationship of our movement to generations of Black people, Black union members, and all working people—it may well determine our very relevance and viability. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Those fighting for racial justice are training their ears toward the silence—and await our answer.


[1] Noam Scheiber, Farah Stockman, and J. David Goodman, “How Police Unions Became Such Powerful Opponents to Reform Efforts,” The New York Times,  June 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/06/us/police-unions-minneapolis-kroll.html.

[2] “Constitution of the AFL-CIO: Amended at the AFL-CIO 28th Constitutional Convention,” October 25, 2017, https://aflcio.org/reports/afl-cio-constitution.

[3] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, “U.S. Correctional Population Declined for the Ninth Consecutive Year,” news release, April 26, 2018, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus16pr.pdf.

[4] Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration” (Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017), http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html.

[5] Shelley Hyland, “Full-Time Employees in Law Enforcement Agencies, 1997-2016,” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), August 28, 2018, http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail.

[6] “Protective Service Occupations: Occupational Outlook Handbook,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 13, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/print/home.htm.

[7] Christopher Ingraham, “Analysis | U.S. Spends Twice as Much on Law and Order as It Does on Cash Welfare, Data Show,” The Washington Post, June 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/04/us-spends-twice-much-law-order-it-does-social-welfare-data-show/.

[8] Ron DeLord and Ron York, Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions about the Challenges Ahead (Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas, Publisher, 2017), 179.

[9] “Union Members Summary,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 22, 2020, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.

[10] DeLord and York, Law Enforcement, Policy Unions, and the Future, p. 178.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Andy Mannix and Libor Jany, “After Decades of the Minneapolis Police Union Wielding Clout, the Entire Department Is Now at Risk,” June 15, 2020, https://www.startribune.com/after-decades-of-union-clout-entire-police-dept-now-at-risk/571242042/.

[13] “Police Union Contracts and Police Bill of Rights Analysis,” Campaign Zero, June 29, 2016, www.checkthepolice.org/s/Campaign-Zero-Police-Union-Contract-Report.pdf.

[14] Steven Greenhouse, Ricardo Lopez, and Jeannie Suk Gersen, “How Police-Union Power Helped Increase Abuses,” The New Yorker, June 18, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-police-union-power-helped-increase-abuses.

[15] Lee Saunders, “AFSCME President on Floyd Killing: No Union Contract Is a Shield for Police Brutality,” USA Today, June 11, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/06/09/george-floyd-killing-no-union-contract-shields-police-lee-saunders-column/5318341002/.

[16] Tom Perkins, “Revealed: Police Unions Spend Millions to Influence Policy in Biggest US Cities,” The Guardian, (June 23, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/police-unions-spending-policy-reform-chicago-new-york-la.

[17] Emily Alpert Reyes, “L.A. Police Union Spent Big in Local Elections. Some Politicians Now Shun the Money,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-10/lapd-union-political-donations.

[18] Scheiber, et al., “How Police Unions Became Such Powerful Opponents,” June 6, 2020.

[19] James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, “Big Labor’s Lock ‘Em Up Mentality,” Mother Jones, February 22, 2103, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/02/biggest-obstacle-prison-reform-labor-unions/.

[20] Nick Pinto, “The Unraveling of Hard-Won Criminal Justice Reforms in New York,” The Intercept, February 23, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/23/criminal-justice-bail-reform-backlash-new-york/.

[21] Greenhouse, et al., “How Police Union Power Helped Increase Abuses,” June 18, 2020.

[22] Harold Meyerson, “Bargaining Against the Common Good,” The American Prospect, June 10, 2020, https://prospect.org/justice/bargaining-against-the-common-good/.

[23] Bill Fletcher, “The Central Issue Is Police Repression, Not Police Unions,” In These Times, June 12, 2020, http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/22598/the_central_issue_is_police_repression_not_police_unions.

[24] Greenhouse, et al., “How Policy Union Power Helped Increase Abuses,” June 18, 2020.

[25] “Writers Guild of America, East Unanimously Passes Resolution Calling on the AFL-CIO to Disaffiliate with the International Union of Police Associations,” Writers Guild of America, East, June 6, 2020, https://www.wgaeast.org/.

[26] “AFL-CIO General Board Recommends Police Reform, Calls for Defense Secretary, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and President of Minneapolis Police Union to Resign,” AFL-CIO, June 9, 2020, https://aflcio.org/press/releases/afl-cio-general-board-recommends-police-reform-calls-defense-secretary-chairman.

[27] Delegates’ votes are weighted according to the number of members they represent. Though 63 percent of delegates present cast their votes in favor of expelling the SPOG, they represented only 45,435 of the more than 82,000 members—or 55 percent of the Council’s membership. Therefore, the official vote was 55 percent to 45 percent. David Kroman, “King County Labor Council Expels Seattle Police Union,” Crosscut, June 18, 2020, https://crosscut.com/2020/06/king-county-labor-council-expels-seattle-police-union.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Hamilton Nolan, “SEIU President: Expelling Police Unions From the Labor Movement ‘Has to Be Considered,’” In These Times, June 19, 2020, https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/22610/mary-kay-henry-seiu-expel-police-unions-black-lives-matter-labor-movement.

[30] Benjamin Sachs, “Police Unions: It’s Time to Change the Law and End the Abuse,” OnLabor, June 4, 2020, https://www.onlabor.org/police-unions-its-time-to-change-the-law/.

[31] Carrie Klein, “Queens Student Activist Gets NYC Pols to Return Cop Union Funds,” The Indypendent, June 8, 2020, https://indypendent.org/2020/06/queens-student-activist-gets-nyc-pols-to-return-cop-union-funds/.

[32] Nate Gartrell, “In Wake of George Floyd Killing, California Prosecutors Lobby to Stop DA’s from Accepting Police Union Money,” The Mercury News,  June 3, 2020, https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/06/01/in-wake-of-george-floyd-killing-ca-prosecutors-lobby-to-stop-das-from-accepting-police-union-money/.

[33] Daniel DiSalvo, “Public Unions Put Their Workers’ Interests Ahead of the Common Good,” City Journal, June 8, 2020, https://www.city-journal.org/government-employee-unions-public-interest.

[34] The Southern California News Group Editorial Board, “As Lawmakers Disavow Police Union Money, Why Not All Public Sector Union Money?,” Orange County Register,, June 11, 2020, https://www.ocregister.com/2020/06/11/as-lawmakers-disavow-police-union-money-why-not-all-public-sector-union-money/.

[35] Address by Samuel Gompers, Chicago, 1893, as quoted in The Shoe Workers Journal. C.L. Baine, ed., “The Shoe Workers Journal Vol. 16,” The Shoe Workers Journal Vol. 16 (Boston, Ma: The Boot and Shoe Workers Union, 1915), https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.li4gze&view=1up&seq=7.

[36] Brady Dennis, Mark Berman, and Elahe Izadi, “Dallas Police Chief Says ‘we’re Asking Cops to Do Too Much in This Country’,” The Washington Post, July 11, 2016, accessed June 06, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/grief-and-anger-continue-after-dallas-attacks-and-police-shootings-as-debate-rages-over-policing/?utm_term=.7ef9b204765a.

[37] Caroline Carballeira, “Police Unions Join Forces to Rally for Mental Health Reform,” NBC 10 Philadelphia, August 24, 2017, accessed June 6, 2018, https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international/Police-Unions-Mental-Illness-Policy-Reform-440784533.html.

[38] Matthew Cunningham-Cook, “The AFL-CIO’s Police Union Problem Is Bigger Than You Think,” The Intercept, June 18, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/06/18/afl-cio-police-labor-union/.

[39] Nolan, “SEIU President: Expelling Police Unions,” June 19, 2020.

Author Biography

David Unger is a labor educator at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, an adjunct instructor at Empire State College, and also teaches diversity, mobilizing, and organizing classes for unions and social justice organizations around New York. He has been a union activist, organizer, and representative for two decades.