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When Your Union is Fascist

Tyrone Turner / WAMU

I maintain all the points I’ve made about the complexity of how to respond to police unions in the wake of trying to tame the racist violence endemic in American policing. But it doesn’t help when the police unions are openly fascist and attack the AFL-CIO for not being fascist enough. Hamilton Nolan reports:

In a scathing letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka dated June 12, the leader of the International Union of Police Associations said that a statement about America’s history of racism and violence against black people is “patently false,” and angrily denounced Trumka as “disgraceful” for “playing to the crowd” on the issue of police reform. 

The letter, which has not been previously reported, appears to be the first response from the IUPA’s president, Sam Cabral, in the wake of swelling criticism of police unions following the killing of George Floyd. 

On June 8, the Writers Guild of America, East (where I am a council member), one of the 55 unions in the AFL-CIO, passed a resolution calling for the labor coalition to kick out the IUPA, its only full police union member. A number of other union locals and leaders outside of the AFL-CIO have joined that call, and others have said that police unions must achieve serious reforms in order to stay in the labor movement. On June 9, the AFL-CIO released a statement decrying police violence and supporting reform measures (but rejecting the call to kick out police unions altogether). These events prompted Cabral’s irate letter to Trumka, which was copied to all of the union presidents in the AFL-CIO. 

“Your recent statement where you speak of ‘America’s long history of racism and violence against black people’ is inflammatory and patently false,” Cabral’s letter begins. He dismisses complaints about racial profiling and militarization of police forces as “ridiculous,” and says that on a recent day in Chicago that saw 18 murders, “None of them were shot by the police.” 

Cabral writes that police were “shocked and saddened” by George Floyd’s death, and tells Trumka, “I find it reprehensible that you would paint us with so broad a brush by including all of our fine membership in such an abhorrent act – it is disgraceful that you would dishonor all of Law Enforcement based on the act of one, or the extreme few.” 

Cabral compares the actions of bad cops to the “outliers” among union officials who have been investigated for corruption and crimes. Notably, he includes in that list Tefere Gebre, the current executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and the only person of color in executive leadership. Gebre was investigated and then reinstated by Trumka last year for an expense account discrepancy in a dispute that Gebre said was actually motivated by underlying political differences.

“The American police officer is the 6th most trusted occupation in America. Labor Leaders fall well below that mark, just above lawyers,” writes Cabral, who is himself a labor leader. 

Christ, what an asshole.

You know, the problems with eliminating the police unions are real enough. But I can’t say I’d cry to much if they were eliminated.

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