An influential labor group in Seattle voted to kick the city’s police union out of the group because it failed to “dismantle racism,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The King County Labor Council voted Wednesday night to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from its organization, which is politically influential and is made up of 150 unions, the Associated Press reported.
The vote comes after weeks of protests and riots across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The incident also brought to the fore the role of police unions in holding officers accused of misconduct accountable. (RELATED:Three California Police Unions Call For National Reforms To ‘Root Out’ Racist Officers)
”Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large,” the labor council said on Twitter after the vote.
Tonight, MLK Labor delegates voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from our labor council.
As unions, it’s our responsibility to fight for all forms of justice, and there can be no justice without racial justice.
— MLK Labor (@MLKLabor) June 18, 2020
“Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer part of our council.”
Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large. Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer part of our council.
— MLK Labor (@MLKLabor) June 18, 2020
Mike Solan, the president of the police union, told the delegates that the union wanted to stay involved and was “willing to learn,” according to the Seattle Times.
“We are human beings and we are workers who are committed to this city and committed to the community … We understand that we’ve probably taken more from the council than we actually have given and what that does is illustrate that we’re professionals and we’re willing to learn,” Solan said. “We see a future, one that engages in these robust conversations, and in particular to race and how the institution of racism impacts all labor unions.”
The delegate vote was 45,435 to expel, with 36,760 voting to keep the police union within the council. One member who wanted to keep the union in the group argued that isolating the police union wouldn’t be productive, and that unions are “stronger together.”
“Why are we engaged in union-busting from within? … We need them at the table, we can talk with them, discuss with them, so then we can hold them accountable,” Karlena Allbery from IBEW 46 said according to the Seattle Times. “Again, it’s not an overall … ‘only police are racist.’ We’re all fighting this.”
The labor group initially threatened to remove the police union June 4 unless it admitted systemic racism is a problem in law enforcement and would address the problem, which it claims is not caused by only a few “bad apples,” but is ingrained within the profession.
Along with requiring the police union to participate in a community effort to address racism, the council gave the police union until June 17 to fulfill these actions or the membership in the labor group would be voted upon.
The police union had published two letters rebuking the actions of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, and promised the Seattle Police Department would train officers to safely manage similar situations.
Multiple delegates, however, decided the union’s actions weren’t sufficient in proving it was committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. The union can be considered for readmission into the labor group in the future, according to the Associated Press.