The violence and the mayhem of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and attendant protests isn't coming from the protesters—it’s not from BLM or antifa. It's coming from the cops. They are deliberately targeting journalists. They're even beating up old white men. They are out of control.
But, as the Center for Public Integrity reports, the major labor unions in the U.S. continue to support police unions. As the Center writes: "Labor unions exist to protect workers, but most workers aren't authorized to use deadly force as part of their jobs." Cops are, and they are protected by their labor contracts from being immediately disciplined even after blatant and egregious misconduct. Labor leaders, while expressing solidarity with the protesters and standing against systemic racism, aren't tackling the big problem here: collective bargaining agreements that shield cops from accountability.
"Public Integrity reached out to leaders of 10 major unions and labor groups," reporter Alexia Fernández Campbell writes. "None were willing to talk about police unions. Trumka, of the AFL-CIO, was too busy to chat. The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union couldn't fit a call into his schedule. Teamsters President James Hoffa declined to comment." She says that the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Auto Workers, Communication Workers of America, Unite Here, and the American Federation of Teachers have not responded.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, did respond to say that the issue of union contracts and collective bargaining in police misconduct is a "false choice." Instead, she said, "I think we have to do something nationally about the demilitarization of policing." That is absolutely true. It must be addressed. So must the issue that officers—public servants whose salaries are paid by taxpayers— feel immune from accountability for their actions because of the protections they've negotiated in these agreements. Unless their actions end up going viral in cellphone videos.
Citizens should not have to arm themselves with cell phones to insure against being brutalized by the police force they're funding, and labor unions have to finally address this. "It's a very delicate subject, it's rarely discussed openly and out loud," Joshua Freeman, a labor historian at City University of New York, said. It's time to break that silence. Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned George Floyd to the ground by the neck for eight minutes and 42 seconds, had at least 17 complaints filed against him for which he had received nothing more than written reprimands. He felt untouchable. He felt he could treat George Floyd any way he wanted with impunity.
The way the cops have rampaged through our streets shows that too many of them feel the same. It's time for that to end. The nation not only has to strip them of the weapons of war they all now have, it has to make them answerable to the people they are sworn to protect and serve. Big labor has a responsibility to make that happen. "Public Integrity reached out to the IUPA and other major police unions, such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Benevolent Association," Campbell reports. "None of them responded."