‘Anti-African American police unions don’t belong in AFL-CIO’

This video from the USA says about itself:

“I Don’t Believe Sandy Committed Suicide”: #BlackLivesMatter Co-Founders Speak Out on Sandra Bland

24 July 2015

As a Movement for Black Lives Convening is set to take place this weekend in Cleveland, we discuss the case of Sandra Bland and many others who have died in the custody of law enforcement with the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Patrisse Cullors is the director of Truth and Reinvestment at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, and the founder of Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization in Los Angeles fighting for the dignity and power of incarcerated people and their families. Alicia Garza is special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. And Opal Tometi is executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 6 August 2015


‘HISTORICALLY and contemporarily, police unions serve the interests of police forces as an arm of the state, and not the interests of police as labourers.’

This powerful phrase was contained in a resolution calling for the expulsion of a US police union from the US trade union movement as a whole. US union, UAW Local 2865 became the first local union branch to call for the expulsion of a police union from the AFL-CIO, the US equivalent of the TUC.

Citing the upsurge in police killings of black teenagers the UAW slammed police unions for ‘support for politicians opposed to police accountability, and dogged defence of officers accused of abuse’. The UAW Local 2865 branch insisted in the resolution that the federation kick out the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) and that other locals should follow suit.

The UAW local, which is comprised of 13,000 teaching assistants and other student workers on University of California campuses, specifically decried cop unions. So what business do academic workers have passing resolutions against police officers? The proper constituency of a union isn’t simply its membership, but the entire working class.

After a grand jury exonerated the Staten Island police officer who choked Eric Garner to death, Patrick Lynch, the president of New York City’s largest police union, lauded the jury decision and pointed the finger at Garner himself. ‘Mr Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest,’ Lynch claimed in December.

When two police officers were killed a couple weeks later, Lynch accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of ‘fostering anti-cop enmity’ and thus having ‘blood on his hands’. The police union membership clearly approved of such bilious statements, turning their backs on de Blasio at the police officers’ funerals and then reelecting Lynch last month.

Police unions outside of New York City have also behaved deplorably over the past year. The police union representing Ferguson cops raised money online for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown dead. Baltimore’s did the same for the officers charged in connection with Freddie Gray’s death. He was choked to death while repeatedly crying out, ‘I can’t breathe.’ And the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Union raffled off a Glock handgun as a fundraiser for the cop accused of killing twelve-year-old Tamir Rice.

It’s precisely this reach-for-the-baton worldview that spurred the UC academic workers to seek the removal of the IUPA, the only union in the AFL-CIO that exclusively represents law-enforcement personnel. When confronted with information of police unions’ actions, many so-called ‘progressives’ in the union movement accuse those who attack the police unions of ‘anti-union hostility’.

But if the Black Lives Matter movement has taught us anything, it’s that cops are different from other public-sector employees. Social workers and teachers don’t fire bullets into the hearts and heads of unarmed people, or impose brute order when social unrest proves too acute for less coercive pacification.

The word ‘union’ shouldn’t be treated as an acid bath that magically disappears this social function.

As Kristian Williams reminds us in his indispensable Our Enemies in Blue, ‘Police organise as police, not workers’. Hoping for police unions to ‘reform’ is also delusional. The GI movement encouraged rebellion within the ranks to terminate the Vietnam War; police unions, by contrast, have repeatedly fought to retain and expand the state’s coercive apparatus.

The few ‘reform organisations’ that do exist, such as the National Black Police Association, have failed miserably. If anything, reform groups would benefit from being able to organise without the influence of an overarching union. The same goes for individual officers.

On August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teenager, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer. Last September, in the wake of mass protests in Ferguson, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka actually said that Darren Wilson and Michael Brown’s mother had something in common: they were both union members!

‘Our brother killed our sister’s son,’ Trumka said in a speech at the Missouri AFL-CIO convention, ‘and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.’ Trumka’s intent, of course, was to express ‘empathy’ and signal the AFL-CIO’s commitment to racial justice, and the speech did contain plenty of commendable denunciations of racism and police brutality.

But the moment underscored the problem with inviting agents of oppression into a movement founded on fighting it. Wilson, though not represented by a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, was still counted as an ‘upstanding union member’ even though he shot dead an unarmed black teenager. As the UC academic workers recognise, there needs to be a clear line of delineation.

A labour movement that values the Michael Browns and Freddie Grays and Sandra Blands has no room for police unions.

Cops make disgusting online ‘memorial’ mocking death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown: here.

9 thoughts on “‘Anti-African American police unions don’t belong in AFL-CIO’

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