UC student-worker union denounces police unions

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A UC student-worker union implored the AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions, to break ties with police unions in a letter sent last week.

In the resolution, United Auto Workers Local 2865 asserts that the police force inherently exists to “uphold the status quo” and that there can be no solidarity between it and the working class when “elites call upon police and their organizations” to subdue labor movements.

The resolution draws attention to instances — such as the Haymarket affair and the Ludlow Massacre — when law enforcement played an integral role in quelling the demonstrations of labor movements.

“Police are there to break up picket lines,” said David McCleary, head steward at UC Berkeley and executive board trustee of UAW Local 2865. “That’s their role.”

UAW Local 2865 alleges in its resolution that the International Union of Police Associations, or IUPA, fails to adhere to the goals of the federation to further laborers’ rights and should therefore be excluded from the list of unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO granted the IUPA a charter to establish a police union in 1979, according to the union’s website. IUPA is the only labor union affiliated with AFL-CIO that exclusively represents law enforcement officers across the nation.

McCleary said the eventual goal is to put enough pressure on the AFL-CIO to kick out the police union so that it can better align its interests with those of black workers.

“The idea here is to start this conversation, then have other locals sign on and say, ‘Yeah, our interests as working-class people are not aligned with police unions,’ ” he said.

But according to Dennis Slocumb, the IUPA’s legislative director, there are a number of other unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO — including  AFSCME — that represent police officers.

The Black Interests Coordinating Committee, which was formed within UAW Local 2865 in response to the recent Black Lives Matter movement, presented the letter to the AFL-CIO, according to Brandon Buchanan, head steward for UAW Local 2865 and a member of the committee.

“(UAW Local 2865) itself struggles to represent black people and black workers … and so that’s part of the reason why (the committee) formed and why we focused on this letter and police violence in particular,” Buchanan said.

According to Buchanan, UAW Local 2865 is not necessarily concerned with individual police but is more concerned with the “structures of power” leading black workers to be disproportionately affected by police violence.

While a single letter may not achieve disaffiliation, the broader goal is to start a conversation that puts black lives into focus, Buchanan said.

Slocumb said it is hard to take the letter seriously, as it essentially calls for the abolition of the police, and thus the IUPA will not provide a response.

Contact Kayla Kettmann at [email protected].

A previous version of this article stated that the representation of UAW Local 2865 includes police officers. In fact, the union only represents academic student workers at the university.