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A coalition of over 50 justice groups and over 150 academics, elected officials, and justice advocates on Friday sent an open letter to the AFL-CIO calling on the nation’s largest labor union organization to end its relationships with police and other law enforcement unions. The letter states that these organizations have abused the union contract negotiations process to enact measures that shield police from accountability at the expense of public safety, to grow their budget for their self-interest rather than the interest of the community, and to thwart advocates—including those in the labor movement—who are at the forefront of criminal justice reform.
In the letter, signers specifically call on the AFL-CIO to disassociate from the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) and to bar other police and law enforcement groups, including those representing immigration officers and prison guards, from membership. The letter goes on to say that the inclusion of these unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella tarnishes its legacy of empowering the powerless.
“The AFL-CIO cannot advance racial justice and stand for criminal justice reform while condoning police unions’ efforts to impede transparency, accountability, and rigorous community oversight of law enforcement” said signer Vincent Southerland, Executive Director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law.
The letter follows a week of heated nationwide protests against police violence and racism following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a Minneapolis police officer. Advocates for police reform have long identified law enforcement unions as a key obstacle to enacting measures to bring accountability and transparency to policing in America.
Read the full letter here.