Public Unions

A Labor Council Has Expelled Seattle's Police Union. Good.

Police unions exist to protect cops at the expense of the public.

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A labor coalition in Seattle, Washington, has voted to expel the city's police union.

The King County Labor Council, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, confirmed Wednesday that the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) would be removed from its ranks, ousting the association that bargains on behalf of 1,300 Seattle cops.

Good. Police unions exist to protect officers at all costs, often to the detriment of the public that they've sworn to protect.

The council, which represents 150 unions and more than 100,000 workers, has enthusiastically advocated for SPOG in the past. The group was partially responsible for having the police union's contract with the Seattle City Council renewed two years ago.

But the momentum around that cause has changed—and for good reason. The killing of George Floyd, the unarmed man who died after a Minneapolis police officer dug a knee into Floyd's neck for over 8 minutes, has reinvigorated the conversation around what reforms are necessary to rein in police abuse.

Unions are an easy target. In many places they have near-monopolistic control over police accountability, working to shield them from complaints of malpractice.

One need not look far for a recent example. The death of Breonna Taylor prompted widespread outrage—the 26-year-old Louisville woman was shot 8 times in her home during a no-knock drug raid, all because police suspected a former boyfriend may have used her address to receive packages. Her then-boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, armed himself as cops barged into Taylor's home in the middle of the night, shooting an officer who he believed to be an intruder.

But the local police union didn't see the incident as a tragic drug raid gone wrong. It chose to focus its ire on a city council member who said Walker was within his rights to try to protect Taylor.

"This is the union's focus: not demanding justice for a woman killed by police in her home but demanding an apology from a local politician who had the temerity to praise a citizen for defending himself and his girlfriend during a botched police maneuver," Reason's Peter Suderman writes. "The union's goal, it seems, is to protect the police from public criticism, not to protect the public from bad policing. That's what police unions do."

The politics around police unions can be strange. Conservatives often decry public-sector unions as bulwarks protecting government employees from a barrage of necessary criticism and reforms. Yet Republicans seem to have an affinity for police unions, notwithstanding the fact that those groups are exactly what the party says it opposes: bulwarks protecting government employees from a barrage of necessary criticism and reforms.

Liberals, meanwhile, usually align themselves with such collective-bargaining groups. That's especially true when it comes to teachers unions, which often prioritize teachers over the students they serve. Yet in this cultural moment, Democrats been quicker to acquiesce to the idea that police unions need to go.

"Police unions are very different. They're very conservative, a lot of them are even Republican," a House Democratic leadership aide recently told Axios. "They don't have the same progressive beliefs."

But such decisions need not and should not turn on which unions have the "right" beliefs. It should turn on the moral quandary of monopoly institutions shielding government agents from accountability. That's a principle that Democrats and Republicans both like to invoke—just not, unfortunately, in the same contexts.

NEXT: Colorado Police Reforms Mandate Body Cameras, Strip Bad Officers of Lawsuit Immunity

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  1. “Democrats been quicker to acquiesce to the idea that police unions need to go.”

    Yeah, to be replaced with “transformative” new public safety rules decided by committee. The rules will just enforce themselves! They’re that good.

    1. Or, just possibly, the police union will be replaced by several new unions representing several new types of government employees authorized to intrude into what used to be our personal lives.
      And by coincidence, all those unions will contribute to democrats.

      1. Or, just possibly, democrats are doing something good by disempowering police through union negotiations and ending QI, while republicans are sitting on their hands talking about increasing police budgets.

        Maybe being a libertarian doesn’t mean being a republican who smokes weed.

        1. Maybe being a libertarian doesn’t mean being a republican who smokes weed.

          LMAO

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          2. Being a libertarian means you know that all people are assholes and idiots some of the time. Some people are assholes all of the time and some people are idiots all of the time. But, a very special few are assholes and idiots all of the time.

            We call these people “politicians”.

    2. Do you have a problem with the local Soviet, comrade?

  2. Uh yeah, this is all self defense. The Police used to be kept in the circle because any time a governor called for limiting the power of Unions, they could rally the Law n Order types. But now they see this as a liability- they don’t want anyone coming after the police to catch the teachers and firefighters unions in the process.

    1. And this, by the way, is where the Stupid party blew it. The left knew what they were doing- they saw a bunch of anger around cops, and used it to target all the usual liberal tropes. Social Services workers, abuse intervention, reparations, hate speech laws, etc.

      If Republicans had just declined to excuse the cops this time, they could have linked all public sector unions to these problems, and put collective bargaining back by decades.

      1. Do you have an example of “excusing cops” here?

      2. Exactly where are the Republicans in the power structures where these messes are happening? Washington State? Minnesota? Atlanta?

        1. Many “Republicans in the power structures” aren’t in power when it comes to telling the police what to do, and many, like Trump, are watching Democrat leadership show what they support.
          You do see Trump telling these mayors/governors they need to keep the peace, and [falsely IMHO] threatening to bring in the National Guard or military (as Clinton did for riots in LA). You also see Trump pointing out their actions.

          Seems to me, the Democrats think riots and looting will help them win the election, because it distracts from the fact it’s their police harming blacks and the poor, and that they don’t hold police accountable (or anyone in government except Trump and conservatives). Amy Klobuchar could have saved Floyd’s life, if she had chosen to prosecute Chauvin, (perhaps in the illegal method they went after Trump and attempted to set him up) years ago.

          Further, the police unions support the Democrats more, while police individually support the GOP. It’s all reported at OpenSecrets.org in an article titled “Amid calls for police reform, new dataset shows where police money has flowed in Congress”.

  3. If they expelled all government unions it would be good. This is just political.

  4. A labor coalition in Seattle, Washington, has voted to expel the city’s police union.

    So, the police union gets kicked out of some club. So what?

  5. Police unions exist to protect cops at the expense of the public.

    Not like those benevolent teacher’s unions, public transit unions, firefighters unions, trash collectors unions…

    1. Exactly.

  6. No QI
    No public unions
    No records secrecy

  7. The collective has replaced the police collective with the chazchop collective.
    Yay

  8. “The King County Labor Council, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, confirmed Wednesday that the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) would be removed from its ranks, ousting the association that bargains on behalf of 1,300 Seattle cops.”

    Being kicked out of the AFL-CIO doesn’t mean they lose their influence. George Meany kicked both the Longshoremen and the Teamsters out of the AFL-CIO, and they both remain relatively powerful as labor unions go to this day. Being kicked out of the AFL-CIO just means they’re no longer part of the AFL-CIO, which means that other government employees in the AFL-CIO (teachers and other government employees) can still pursue their interests independent of the interests of law enforcement unions.

  9. Excellent! Public sector unions are criminal conspiracies against citizens, and police unions are armed and arrogant ones.

  10. Yet in this cultural moment, Democrats been quicker to acquiesce to the idea that police unions need to go.

    It won’t last, I’m only curious to see how they flip on the position.

    1. “Labor Lives Matter”?

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  12. Now do teachers Unions – they exist to protect teachers and administrators at the expense of students and taxpayers

    1. Stop right there! You are not supposed to take the next logical step.

  13. “They don’t have the same progressive beliefs.”

    You mean, the belief that government employees always deserve more money? I think they do!

    1. No, the beleif that they should shill for Democrats

    2. The police agencies always end up complying with the enforcement biases of the political entities. Maybe not immediately but eventually. Take Seattle and ‘Frisco.

      The police unions will not go away.

  14. You other unions who’ve supported Democrats all these years take note. If it’s politically expedient, you will get shoved under the bus just as quickly as police unions are now.

  15. I always voted against half cent sales tax increases for firefighters and cops because they were paid well already. My vote didn’t matter.

  16. Billy, you dolt, EVERY union exists both to enhance benefits for its membership AND to protect its members (good and bad) from unfair labor practices. As you point out, unions protect their members who get into trouble…teachers, government employees, pilots, and even police avail themselves of the defense mechanism offered by their unions. But that defense mechanism is not a “shield” as you assert, rather it is a mechanism to ensure that any discipline is warranted and fairly meted out. I find it fascinating that the King County Labor Council kicked the SPOG out on the basis of the Minneapolis and/or Louisville incidents. Does that mean that if a teacher in Florida does something terrible to a student that they will expel the Seattle Teachers Union? My guess is this whole thing is nothing more than an attempt to jump on the bandwagon and pander to the BLM cabal.

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