Speed Reads

a hole in the conversation

Labor activists want to reform police unions. Union leaders don't want to talk about it.

Many major union groups, including the AFL-CIO, count police unions among their ranks of teachers and postal workers — and it's seemingly making their leaders uncomfortable with talking about police brutality.

The killing of George Floyd has launched calls for reforming police forces nationwide, as well as reforming the unions that may have allowed the officers involved in Floyd's death to keep working even after prior complaints. But the leaders of major unions that represent those police unions have been reluctant to talk about reform — and are "tiptoeing" around police brutality altogether, The Center for Public Integrity reports.

After the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, "the AFL-CIO began to talk more openly about racism in the police force," Alexia Fernández Campbell writes. Yet both then and today, Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO labor federation, has avoided placing any blame on individual officers. The Center for Public Integrity asked Trumka, as well as the leaders of nine other labor unions, for comment on police unions and they all declined to talk.

It's not a topic unions can avoid. "Police unions have written labor contracts that bar law enforcement agencies across the country from immediately interrogating or firing officers after egregious acts of misconduct," Fernández Campbell notes. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin "had at least 17 complaints filed against him but never got more than a written reprimand," leading advocates to call for reforming police unions or abolishing them altogether, Fernández Campbell continues. Read more at The Center for Public Integrity.