Today we celebrated Labor Day, a holiday first proposed by labor unions during the late 1800s as a way to honor American workers.
Ironically, in 2020 many hard working men and women find themselves unable to pursue an honest living due to unreasonable shutdown regulations imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, public sector police and teachers unions continue to exacerbate our national despair.
Let’s start with the police unions.
Since the police killing of George Floyd in May, the nation has been, quite literally, ablaze in protests against police brutality and the seemingly common abuse of Black civilians by law enforcement officers. Whether you believe — as I do — that the vast majority of police are well-intentioned people who seek to defend, protect, and serve the community, or you believe — as many protestors do — that law enforcement is rotten to the core, we probably all can agree that there are some people who have no business wearing the badge and carrying a gun.
And yet, as I noted in a blog post earlier this year, police unions make it next to impossible to fire bad cops. The officer who killed George Floyd had been the subject of not just one, but numerous, misconduct complaints. And yet he remained on the force, protected by his union. This is not unusual. Although there is no comprehensive database of police misconduct, informal reviews of police archives tend to indicate that many internal misconduct investigations involve repeat offenders.
As I wrote in June, the inability of police executives to fire cops with a record of complaints against them has serious implications for the use of excessive force. In fact, across the country, the introduction of collective bargaining rights for police officers is correlated with an increase in police killings of civilians.
Amazingly, police unions not only fight to keep bad cops on the force, they fight to prevent the public from knowing about police misconduct. As J.D. Tuccille reports at Reason.com,
New York City’s Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, opposes standardized penalties for police misconduct. In July, it joined in a lawsuit with unions representing firefighters and corrections officers to block the release to the public of records of police officers who have been disciplined.
The union representing New Jersey state troopers similarly sued to keep disciplinary records secret. San Francisco’s police union filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s right to revise its use-of-force policy. California police unions joined together to defeat a bill that would have barred officers guilty of serious misconduct from further police work.
According to Tuccille, these instances of unions attempting to hide police misconduct from the public occurred after the killing of George Floyd and after the beginning of the nationwide protests.
“In context,” Tuccille writes, the unions’ actions look like “a raised middle finger to an angry public.”
And what of the unions that bargain on behalf of our children’s teachers?
While other essential workers — from grocery store clerks and firefighters to warehouse employees and nurses — have been diligently doing their jobs in person throughout the pandemic, the teachers unions continue to resist efforts to reopen for full-time, in-person learning this fall.
Mounting evidence now suggests that children are at extremely low risk of getting seriously ill from the novel coronavirus. Yet, union leaders claim that it is too dangerous for teachers to be around students. The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association even claims that it is unsafe for teachers to provide virtual lessons from empty classrooms.
While teachers unions threaten strikes and stage protests with hyperbolic signs, such as “No One Learns From Dead Teachers,” some districts are opening up school buildings so that non-unionized employees can supervise on-line learning — for a fee. Apparently, it’s perfectly safe for these workers to be around kids in public school buildings; it’s just not safe for teachers.
The truth is that transmission from students to school staff is rare, and neither teachers nor on-line learning supervisors have reason to be afraid, so long as schools practice good hygiene and take measures to mitigate the risk.
But perhaps fear isn’t really what’s driving the intransigence.
In July, United Teachers Los Angeles (“UTLA”), the union representing teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, announced that it wants to see politicians enact certain economic and social justice policies before teachers return to the classroom.
In addition to defunding of the police, [the union is] demanding single-payer, government-provided health care; full funding for housing California’s homeless; a shutdown to publicly funded, privately operated charter schools; and a new set of programs to address systemic racism. To pay for all this, [the union proposes] a 1 percent wealth tax, a 3 percent income surtax on millionaires, and increased property taxes on businesses. [It also wants] $250 million from the federal government.
And while the unions oppose full-time, in-person teaching, many also have the audacity to try to prevent families from finding other options for their children. The UTLA, for example, seeks a moratorium on all charter schools and voucher programs; the National Education Association wants to require that anyone who is homeschooling be licensed by the state and use only state approved curricula.
These recent actions make clear that the teachers unions do not operate in the best interests of the children they claim to serve.
So, while we honor the American worker, let’s do so without endorsing the public sector unions that protect bad cops and that want to want to keep our children’s schools closed indefinitely.