SEATTLE (AP) — The largest labor group in the Seattle area has expelled the city’s police union, saying the guild representing officers failed to address racism within its ranks.
The vote Wednesday night by the King County Labor Council to exclude the Seattle Police Officers Guild comes after weeks of protests in the city over police brutality and racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It’s also significant as the labor council is politically influential. Local elected leaders are reluctant to go against the umbrella group of more than 150 unions and 100,000 workers.
“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. The police union “has failed to do that work” and is no longer part of the council, the labor alliance said.
The Seattle Times reports that the delegate vote was 45,435 to expel, with 36,760 voting to keep the police union within the council.
Before the vote, police union President Mike Solan told delegates the police union wanted to stay involved with the council and was “willing to learn.”
“We are human beings and we are workers who are committed to this city and committed to the community,” 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.”
Labor council representatives said the police guild could be readmitted at some point in the future.
“At this point, I just can’t justify to our members, ones who are staffing the medical tents and getting gassed” by the Seattle Police Department and having the Seattle Police Officers Guild at the table, “using our unity as a shield to justify contracts that go against our principles and mission,” said Jane Hopkins, a registered nurse and executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
The Seattle City Council on Monday voted unanimously to bar police from using tear gas, pepper spray and several other crowd-control devices after officers repeatedly used them on mostly peaceful demonstrators.
The 9-0 vote came amid frustration with the Seattle Police Department, which used tear gas to disperse protesters in the city’s densest neighborhood, Capitol Hill, just days after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best promised not to do so.
Police have now largely left a several block area of Capitol Hill, which for more than a week has been the site of active protests by demonstrators who have dubbed the area the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.”
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County said in a statement Thursday that it stands with the labor council in demanding acknowledgement and addressing of institutionalized racism in Seattle policing, and that police accountability be included in contract negotiations.
The organization said it has demanded a seat at the negotiating table and that the mayor has responded by putting those police contract negotiations on hold until there is a plan for community representation.