A failure by organized labor to shun the FOP will drag our movement down.

Chicago FOP President John Catanzara.

Adeshina Emmanuel, an editor at Injustice Watch and a former guest several times on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, has been long-time observer of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.

I urge you to read his article.

He documents, as I have done in my recent posts, how the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City of Chicago and the FOP undermines the ability to pursue criminal charges against police who – frequently – engage in misconduct, abuse and murder.

While most CBAs have language addressing due process, the language is normally intended to protect workers from abusive practices of management.

Only the FOP has due process language that is intended to defend misconduct by police against citizens, predictably Black and Brown citizens.

Emmanuel addresses the tough question of why organized labor – from national unions to their local affiliates right here in Chicago – continue to be silent on the issue of the FOP and their racism.

So, where does the labor movement stand?

Richard Trumka, head of AFL-CIO, the nation’s biggest federation of unions, has rejected calls for police unions to be expelled from the federation (the FOP is not a member, but the International Union of Police Associations is). So far, just one AFL-CIO affiliate, the Labor Federation of King County, Wash., has broken ranks and voted for expulsion.

Trumka and other labor leaders have condemned systemic racism and police violence and even declared that Black lives matter. Despite those gestures, they have hesitated to criticize the robust collective bargaining agreements protestors characterize as tools of state-sanctioned impunity.

Whatever the case, this much is clear:

Any push to reform, defund or abolish the police means wrestling with police unions, whose leaders are digging in their heels even as their counterparts in labor demand an end to police violence.

I have argued that the Illinois legislature should act to remove as subjects of bargaining any due process language that undermines the Consent Decree or shields police misconduct from criminal prosecution.

Organized labor has remained silent on this and on the role of the FOP in general.

So have legislators who are considered progressives.

This silence will drag down organized labor, already in decline, as representatives of social justice.

3 thoughts on “A failure by organized labor to shun the FOP will drag our movement down.

  1. Why should teachers get due process and not police-&-fire officers? Police who kill or injure people without appropriate justification SHOULD lose their job if convicted homicide or lesser charges. But they could be put on office duty during an investigation. (They’ll need to pay lawyers.)

    Similarly, they could be jailed if indicted in an appropriate proceeding — perhaps not entitled to bond if the judge decides.

    Teachers get paid while sitting in study halls waiting for due process hearings.

    You may have some concern that a right-wing racist on a jury may refuse to convict and that the officer will escape punishment. But that’s a risk that everyone takes in going before a jury in a criminal case.

    I think part of your point is that the internal review boards may cut the offender some slack. But isn’t that also true of teachers who apply for disability pensions or who are accused of sexual assault or racism?

    Perhaps a city can try to negotiate these “protections” out of the next collective bargaining agreement. That might lead to impasse or result in a work-stoppage. But I expect the contract provides for mandatory arbitration. Or, as you suggest, the legislature could vote to change the subjects of collective bargaining.

    In all the possible legal maneuvers, there should be a sound public policy basis to change the status quo. The legislature will hold hearings and proponents and opponents will each hire lobbyists. In this post you make the case for one view but it would be a stronger case if you could rationalize the bases for distinguishing between public safety and other public employees.

    Of course you can sidestep this issue by not publishing my reply. But I think you’d be a more effective advocate if you responded to a question that is on the minds of many of your readers.

    1. Ah. That old trick of suggesting I wouldn’t post your comment in order to get me to post your comment.

      I guess you could say it worked, except that’s not why I posted it.

      Instead I’m disappointed that you wrote this long thing without bothering to read all the many blog posts I have written that address the issues you bring up.

      The gist of which is that current CBAs for the Fraternal Order of Police are fundamentally different than traditional labor contracts when it comes to due process.

      The Department of Justice – even under Trump – give specific examples of where the FOP contract shields police from criminal prosecution. No other labor contract does that.

      This cannot be allowed to just be one more point of bargaining since, if you had experience in contract bargaining, you would know that bargaining things out of contracts is nearly impossible to do.

      I think I made a case for legislative action.

      Sorry it didn’t meet your standards.

  2. Fred, I’ve read a lot of CBAs and acted as an expert witness for a large city in police and fire arbitrations. So I’ve seen a lot of stuff that neither labor nor management can brag about. Where I lived, the police and fire trustees dominated the pension board and when the union could not get what it wanted at the bargaining table, it simply changed the actuarial assumptions to increase the city’s pension contributions. The city eventually caved. Meanwhile the mayor went to jail for pay-to-play and the union-hired pension counsel was convicted by a federal court. In a different city, four different lawyers were tapping the pension plan for fees. The mayor, the council, the union and the trustees were all paying lawyers. At the time, the pension system was cutting the checks for all four lawyers. So nothing surprises me including the number of New York teachers still on the payroll sitting in study halls while some unfair labor practice moves through the 2-3 year “due” process.

    I have not put public safety and teacher contract language side by side, but I don’t doubt what you say. Both sides are full of nepotism and graft and each has lawyers and actuaries who are looking to charge every nickel of travel and hotel and restaurant and mileage to the fund and ultimately to the taxpayers. The same is true of bond lawyers and consultants and investment bankers. Workers and taxpayers are not their first concern.

    I guess what I’d hope to see in the labor law context is some contract language side-by-side to judge for myself how it has come to be that police side-step prosecution. I have long believed that the unions have had the best lawyers going back to when they put pension protection clauses into state constitutions. Meanwhile cities take bids for their legal work and end up hiring based on who knows the mayor’s wife or who submits the lowest bid. In most situations, it only takes one juror to preclude a felony conviction yet I can see an individual officer who is fearful of becoming a scapegoat in a situation where the citizens are stirred up.

    It’s beginning to look as if the gravy train is nearing the end of the line and that traditional adversaries should start to discuss the best way to kick the train wreck down the tracks for another few decades.

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