The MLK Labor council voted to boot the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) from their politically powerful network of unions during a lethally tedious meeting on Wednesday evening that was blessedly Zoom-bombed by anime porn. (
Tensions ran high, and an absolute disregard for the mute button reigned.
Initially the council called an up or down vote to expel, which passed. Then the leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union (i.e. Metro employees and bus drivers) called for a new vote with an option to abstain. Those results were 153 yays, 77 nays, 12 ehhs. Someone then called for a roll call, which weighs the vote by the number of delegates a given union has in the labor council. The results of that vote were closer: 45,435.91 delegates in favor of the boot and 36,760.23 delegates against.
The arguments against expelling SPOG from the council were predictable. Proponents—which included most fire fighters, machinists, building trades, bakers (!), and most of the Metro employees—said kicking out the cops would be a “hasty” decision that would amount to a “slippery slope” that would lead to other unions being “ousted at any time.” One leader said the vote represented a “divide and conquer” mentality that would weaken labor. A delegate for the inlandboatmen’s union said, “Even sinners belong in church.”
Mike Solan, president of SPOG, also spoke against the motion to expel. He said the cops had “taken more from the council than we have given,” an admission he felt demonstrated his organization’s “willingness to learn.”
Other union leaders disagreed.
Diana Rocha of the library workers argued that “the slippery slope was letting SPOG into the council to begin with.” They said including the police in the union “hurts our ability to organize the communities we serve,” a point echoed by UFCW 21 secretary-treasurer Joe Mizrahi.
The Seattle Education Association's Guesh Wubneh said the cops "brutalize people and then when people come out to protest they oppress them,” and underlined the fact that “they’re the ones who get called when we’re protesting bosses.”
Over the phone, Mizrahi said he thought it was "telling" that the vast majority of people speaking in favor of expulsion were union leaders of color, while the vast majority speaking out against were not. The call to remove SPOG, which was voted into the council in 2014, "organically came from rank-and-file members of color" from the Highline Education Association, he said, and he hopes the victory spurs BIPOC leaders of their unions to get more involved in labor reforms.
"Kicking out SPOG isn’t the end game," Mizrahi added. "We all want to be deeply involved in what police reform looks like. We just knew we couldn’t be able to genuinely engage in that conversation with SPOG still in the labor council."
Mizrahi also hopes expulsion gives the guild a chance to reflect. "Nothing about expulsion is permanent. If they make a commitment to reform, engage with community, and accept accountability measures, we’d welcome them back into the labor community," he said.
With SPOG out, the police will have slightly less political leverage when they try to skirt accountability measures in their contract negotiations. SPOG’s loss might also be the council’s gain if, as Mizrahi and Rocha suggested, the council’s decision not to side with the forces of structural racism attracts nonunion workers of color who want to unionize.