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On Wednesday, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles (BLMLA) announced a new campaign to decertify the two largest law enforcement unions in Southern California as labor unions and to disband them.
According to BLMLA, they want both the Police Protective League, the union for members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the union for members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, to be removed from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the large county-wide collection unions. BLMLA added that the ultimate goal is to see both unions formally disbanded.
With my @PplsCityCouncil homies at the @BLMLA action to #EndPoliceAssociations We'll be there every Wednesday until police associations like the LAPPL and ALADS are a thing of the past pic.twitter.com/XKec8eer1Z
— Albert Jaragua Cøradø (@digitalurn) February 25, 2021
Calls for law enforcement defunding and police union decertification have been ongoing since May of 2020. BLM and other social justice group organizers. spurred by the death of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and others by police officers, began calling for those measures to reduce the reduce the number of police officers in favor of more social programs and an increased number of specialists to help citizens with different needs currently served by law enforcement organizations.
While BLM had advocated for large amounts of defunding, Los Angeles only cut the LAPD budget by $150 million in November 2020, causing the department to cut 250 officers for a grand total of just under 10,000 to serve the city. Many activists have said that this is not nearly enough, and have pushed for more measures against law enforcement, culminating on the calls by BLM to remove and dissolve the unions on Wednesday, as well as expose alleged ‘anti-blackness’ shown by the Police Protective League.
“Every Wednesday we’re going to send a message to the people across the street that we are going to end these associations,” announced BLMLA organizer Akili at a news conference across the street from the Police Protective League headquarters on Wednesday. “We will not be bullied anymore.”
BLMLA co-founder Melina Abdullah also spoke, noting that defunding the police is also still a major goal of BLMLA.
“Defunding is just shorthand for abolition,” said Abdullah.
Labor unions defend officers, right to unionize
Both labor unions, as well as the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, defended themselves on Wednesday and Thursday, explaining that they had a right to unionize and collectively bargain. The unions also noted that disbanding unions for no reason was an undemocratic tactic that only authoritarian groups would want to employ.
“We stand by our original stance — that every worker in every field should have the right to collectively bargain and build power in the workplace under a union contract,” stated Los Angeles County Federation of Labor spokesman Christian Castro on Wednesday.
The police unions also released statements.
“ALADS has deep labor roots, representing working people for over 50 years,” said ALADS Vice President Richard Pippin in an email to media outlets. “It’s surprising that any group would think that diminishing someone else’s rights to be able to collectively bargain, have a voice in their workplace and ensure equal access to industrial due process would elevate their own cause.”
Labor experts further noted that the measures BLMLA wants to take are nearly impossible, and if enacted, would cause a lot of damage not only to law enforcement groups in the County, but to citizens who need police assistance.
“To disband or disempower a union like this, well, you really need good reasons and strong evidence,” explained Rita Sykes, a California-based union mediator, to the Globe. “Look at what happened with the air traffic controller union PATCO in 1981. It was decertified and dissolved but only after launching a nationwide strike against presidential orders. Ronald Reagan, acting because they broke a federal oath not to strike, not mention putting a lot of people at risk over cancelled flights, fired nearly all of them, which led to a domino effect of PATCO not existing anymore two months later. And without a union, air travel was all scrambled for years afterwards.”
“If that sort of thing happened in LA, not including the mass firings and going against federal oaths, we can see the same thing. It would take just one incident of something happening on the job for confusion to break out because of the structure of the union going away. We’ve seen with other decertifications that a new union is created almost immediately afterwards, but this would just be wildly reckless. And amid all that turmoil, with contracts no longer guaranteed, many police wouldn’t know about their employment status. Thousands of police officers in the second largest city in the country not knowing where their jobs stand is not something you want when emergencies arise.”
BLM activists looking for LAPD cuts also face contract extensions this year, adding pause to not only their decertification wishes, but also to their push for more police defunding. The Police Protective League are currently working on a deal with the city that would delay police pay increases until 2023 while also halting plans for officer layoffs. Should in be accepted, it would largely undo LAPD budget decisions from earlier this year, placing BLMLA back to where they started from last year.
BLMLA is expected to keep pushing for defunding and decertification regardless of the outcome of the union deal.
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