The following is a series of statements from the National AFL-CIO regarding recent action taken on police reform and other civil rights matters.
This week, the General Board of the National AFL-CIO adopted a comprehensive set of recommendations to take concrete action to address America’s long history of racism and police violence against black people.
These recommendations include calling for the immediate resignations of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their roles in the misuse of federal military power to put down peaceful demonstrations; supporting the call of the Minnesota AFL-CIO for the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis union to resign and backing the statement of MLK Labor in Seattle demanding changes from its police affiliate; recommending that every central labor council work with local unions to engage in community listening sessions modeled after the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention; recommitting the labor movement to continue acting on the findings of the AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice and the demographic recommendations of the AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions; and supporting recommendations put forth by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to crack down on police brutality while protecting the due process rights of all public service workers.
National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also announced a plan to convene a meeting of the approximately dozen affiliate unions with law enforcement units to discuss the development of a code of excellence to create systemic change from within organized labor, including a monitoring and enforcement mechanism.
Statement on Esper and Milley
The National AFL-CIO joins the Union Veterans Council in calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley for their participation in President Trump’s gross misuse of the American military last Monday in Washington, D.C. Peaceful protesters should always be guaranteed their constitutional right to assemble. Instead, America’s soldiers and police officers were ordered to tear gas their fellow citizens so the president could walk to the historic St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square, just steps from the AFL-CIO, and have a photo-op. Secretary Esper and Gen. Milley not only participated in this shameful stunt, but they also were complicit in helping to plan it. The two high-ranking American officials endangered their fellow Americans and failed to uphold their sacred oaths. They should step down immediately.
Statement on Police Reform
The scourge of police violence against black people in America has reached a tipping point, and it is critical that we take comprehensive action to end this injustice once and for all. Union members live and work in every state and every community, so when police brutality occurs, it happens in our backyards and to our families. As such, we feel a special responsibility in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to support our civil rights allies and play a leading role in making sure this time is different. Whether it’s banning chokeholds, expanding the use of body cameras, ending racial profiling, demilitarizing our police forces, or limiting no-knock warrants, the LCCHR’s recommendations on police reform have the potential to create a fairer, more community-centric policing culture.
Statement on Law Enforcement Unions
The murder of George Floyd has put a renewed focus on police unions and, specifically, the affiliation of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) with the AFL-CIO. Protesting racist violence—whether at the hands of a police officer or a neighbor or an employer—is not only a righteous cause. It’s a responsibility. It’s incumbent upon each and every one of us. We are proud to join the calls for policing and criminal justice reform by Black Lives Matter and the broader civil rights movement.
But we respectfully take a different view when it comes to the call for the AFL-CIO to cut ties with IUPA. First and foremost, we believe police officers, and everyone who works for a living, have the right to collective bargaining. We have a dozen affiliate unions that represent law enforcement in some form. There are officers of every color, background, and stripe in America.
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. Many of our unions have adopted a code of excellence for their members and industries that could and should be applied to those who are sworn to protect and serve. We believe the labor movement must hold our own institutions accountable. A union must never be a shield from criminal conduct.
America is in pain. People of color have suffered for far too long. All of us want answers for George Floyd and every other victim of police violence. It would be quick and easy to cut ties with police unions. But disengagement breeds division, not unity. This is a moment to do what is hard and meaningful and uncomfortable. And that requires building a better labor movement from within.