WASHINGTON (PAI)—In a comprehensive statement, the AFL-CIO General Board – heads of all its member unions – recommitted the labor movement to working towards implementing wide-ranging recommendations to tackle systemic racism in the U.S., including police racism.
Those recommendations came from both the federation’s own race commission after the previous notorious police murder, of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., almost six years ago, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — which includes the AFL-CIO.
Coincidentally, LCCHR issued its 416 -page report just after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered unresisting prone George Floyd on May 25 with a knee and all his weight on Floyd’s neck. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd kept gasping before dying.
While the fed backed the leadership conference’s wide-ranging police reforms, its general board also walked a fine line about what to do about police unions.
Its statement backed the Martin Luther King County (Seattle) AFL-CIO’s demanding changes in its local police affiliate, and the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s demand the notoriously racist Minneapolis police federation – not union – head be stripped of that job and his badge. The city cut off contract talks with that police group on June 10.
But the AFL-CIO also refused to censure or condemn the International Union of Police Associations. IUPA, an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents 100,000 officers nationwide, compared to 300,000 or so under the Federation of Police, which is technically an association, not an union. And it was silent on another point police critics have raised: Whether contracts IUPA and FOP negotiate give undue protection to malevolent officers.
The Writers Guild of America-East demanded IUPA be tossed out of the AFL-CIO, and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA strongly backed Black Lives Matter and comprehensive police reform. IUPA has been silent on Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis officer and FOP member Derek Chauvin.
AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson was even tougher then her union’s statement. “We have to make it very clear for every union in the AFL-CIO that when we see outright violence and oppression against working people, we have to stand against it,” she told Huffington Post. “They have to be a part of the solution, or they shouldn’t be around. It’s that simple.”
The fed took another tack.
“We believe police officers,” like all workers, “have a right to collective bargaining,” it said. Including IUPA, 12 AFL-CIO unions represent police officers, it noted. “We believe the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage with our police unions, not isolate them.”
Meanwhile, the Minnesota AFL-CIO called on Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Bob Kroll to resign. “Minneapolis Police Union President, Bob Kroll, has failed the Labor Movement and the residents of Minneapolis,” the statement said. “Bob Kroll has a long history of bigoted remarks and complaints of violence made against him. As union President, he antagonizes and disparages members of the Black community. He advocates for military-style police tactics making communities less safe and the police force more deadly. The affiliated unions of the Minnesota AFL-CIO are committed to seeking economic, social, and racial justice for all working people – no matter what we look like or where we come from,” the federation said in a statement. “There is no room for white supremacists in our movement. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis is not, nor has it ever been a member of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Bob Kroll and those who have enabled violence and brutality to grow within police ranks do not speak for us. The Labor Movement is rooted in the fight for justice. Bob Kroll’s actions and the ongoing lack of accountability in the Minneapolis Police union are not just…Unions must never be a tool to shield perpetrators from justice.”
Minnesota unions calling for Kroll’s resignation including AFGE District 8, AFSCME Council 5, CWA Minnesota State Council, Education Minnesota, IAM Minnesota State Council, MAPE, Minnesota Nurses Association, OPEIU Local 12, SEIU Minnesota State Council and UNITE HERE Local 17.
The Labor World added to this report.