Thursday, July 30, 2020

Talking Union

Talking Union

If you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do;
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you;
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
But if you all stick together, now, ‘twont be long.
You'll get shorter hours, better working conditions,
Vacations with pay, take your kids to the seashore.

Lyrics: Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, and Pete Seeger
Source: Talking Union.
I grew up in a union household. I'm a big supporter of collective bargaining rights, fair pay, good conditions, etc., etc. I believe that the free market, left to itself, will not deliver these things to workers. Billion dollar corporations simply wield too much power to expect any individual to be able to negotiate a fair deal. Unions help level the playing field. So, if I'm such a big union supporter, what's got me concerned with unions?

Well, it's not all unions. Most are only a ghost of their former selves, unions in name only. Specifically, my concern is with police unions having enough power that members can seemingly brutalize the public with, "so far, very little" consequences.

ProPublica published a report on about "68 videos [that] show clear apparent instances of police officers escalating violence during protests. Most departments refused to share details about investigations and discipline or even officers' names." The officers' actions are a big problem with me. But covering up investigations is a big problem for me, too.

Worse is the attitude of union leaders that's all too prevalent, all too public.
In May, just days after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Lieutenant Bob Kroll, the bellicose leader of the city’s police union, described Floyd as a violent criminal, said that the protesters who had gathered to lament his death were terrorists, and complained that they weren’t being treated more roughly by police. Kroll, who has spoken unsentimentally about being involved in three shootings himself, said that he was fighting to get the accused officers reinstated. In the following days, the Kentucky police union rallied around officers who had fatally shot an E.M.T. worker named Breonna Taylor in her home. Atlanta police staged an organized sick-out after the officers who killed Rayshard Brooks were charged. Philadelphia police sold T-shirts celebrating a fellow-cop who was caught on video clubbing a student protester with a steel baton. The list goes on.
I fervently hope the Richardson Police Officers' Association FOP Lodge 105 is different. If so, it takes more than standing by silently while such words are spoken by others. I "back the blue" but I can't back that. Condemning the murder of George Floyd is a good first step. The rank and file police officers must also condemn the reactionary words and actions by police unions in Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, and other cities. I can't support unions defending not just the legal rights of police officers but bad actions by the police.

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