By Josh Eidelson
June 8, 2020, 5:26 PM EDT
Updated on June 8, 2020, 7:55 PM EDT
Organized labor is accused of blocking law enforcement reforms
Head of umbrella organization has defended inclusion of police
A writers’ union is calling on the AFL-CIO to kick out a police union, heightening pressure on the labor federation over its role in the national reckoning about police brutality.
By a unanimous vote, the Writers Guild of America, East passed a resolution Monday calling for the AFL-CIO to cut ties with one of its affiliates, the International Union of Police Associations. The resolution says that police unions “wield their collective bargaining power as a cudgel, preventing reforms and accountability” and undermining safety.
“The AFL-CIO and its affiliates have a responsibility to our own members and to the nation as a whole to show leadership,” WGAE President Beau Willimon said in an emailed statement. The guild and IUPA are two of the 55 unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
“While we differ on the exact approach, we respect WGAE and share their goal of eradicating systemic racism and adopting substantial police reform,” AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner wrote in an email.
WGAE’s resolution follows a similar call last week from a group of advocates including several state lawmakers, who wrote that organized labor’s “proud history is being destroyed by the legacy that police unions are leaving behind.” Another union, the Association of Flight Attendants, also passed a resolution last week committing to push for law enforcement unions to address racism or else be kicked out of the movement.
“This is a time for the labor movement to make demands for the human rights of every working person, and if the police unions or law enforcement affiliates cannot meet those demands, then they do not share the principles of the labor movement and they should be removed,” AFA President Sara Nelson said.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has rejected calls to kick out law enforcement unions, saying the best way to use the federation’s influence “is to engage with our police affiliates rather than isolate them.” In an interview Friday with Bloomberg TV, Trumka said that the AFL-CIO was determined to work with Black Lives Matter and other activists to secure reforms and that “collective bargaining is not the enemy” in that process.
In a Monday email to AFL-CIO affiliates, Trumka suggested that unions representing law enforcement get together “to discuss internal reforms and the development of a code of excellence to create systemic change from within the union itself,” including a process for monitoring and enforcement.