The last eight days witnessed the single greatest national explosion of popular unrest since the summer of 1968. Hundreds of thousands of protesters of all races and generations gathered around the world to demand justice for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May and to demand an end to police brutality and racism more broadly. The vicious response most protesters received — and continue to receive in ongoing demonstrations — at the hands of those sworn to “protect and serve” only proves the urgent necessity of their demands.
The history of workers’ struggles in the United States is punctuated by the constant antagonism of policing — whether municipal, state, federal, or private armies of thugs like the Pinkertons. No matter the place, no matter the era, no matter the industry, police have served as aggressor against workers’ organizing efforts and bulwark protecting the interests of property and capital.
Simultaneously, police have served to uphold the racial hierarchy imposed upon people of color by the white supremacist ruling class by aiding, abetting, and directly participating in all conceivable forms of subjugation and oppression. Moreover, in the century since its founding the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the country’s largest police union, has worked tirelessly to shield those police officers guilty of crimes against communities of color and to stamp out dissent or efforts to reform from within.
In Columbus, the historical narrative is no different from the rest of the country. Here too, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color struggle against a repressive and overwhelmingly white police force that disproportionately targets them for harassment, arrest, and murder. Here too, the police are shielded from accountability by their union.
According to its website, FOP Capital City Lodge #9 is the fifth-largest union local in the country, representing more than 4,000 members and 29 law enforcement agencies throughout Franklin County. In the past eight days, hundreds — if not thousands — of those members have been mobilized against the public in a shocking display of unrestrained malice. Mace, pepper balls, rubber and wooden bullets, tear gas, shield and batons have all been wielded with impunity against peaceful protesters who had the gall to demand accountability from nominally public servants. On the night of 31 May, for instance, the police were so proud of their handiwork, they congregated for a group photo in the middle of a cleared intersection. These are not the actions of workers, let alone the actions of union siblings.
As workers of Columbus, the site of the 1886 founding of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), we deeply feel the twisted irony of being home to the 11th-most murderous police force in the country. As socialists, we believe in the power of workers, in fostering bonds of solidarity among workers through the shared struggle of organizing, in the battles workers wage against capital to build and exert their collective power. As moral human beings, we believe in the full emancipation of BIPOC and the destruction of white supremacy. At every turn, police stand against these interests.
Police unions are a blight on the labor movement. They ignore calls for reform and scoff at pleas for solidarity. They are the enemy of workers and BIPOC communities everywhere. They are scabs, pure and simple.
Columbus DSA hereby calls on FOP Capital City Lodge #9 President Ferrell, Executive Vice President Simpson, and Vice President Steel to immediately resign. We call on the State House to pass legislation stripping police unions of the right to collectively bargain. We call on all municipalities of Franklin County to demilitarize and defund their police departments, and to reappropriate existing “public safety” funding toward more critical sectors and infrastructure like public education, public housing, and public transportation.
Further, we call on the AFL-CIO to immediately expel the International Union of Police Association (IUPA) from the federation and to sever all ties with police and prison guard unions. They are not siblings. They do not deserve the union privileges they actively help deny workers everywhere.
These are merely the first steps towards building a future safe for BIPOC communities and for workers of all colors, backgrounds, and industries. A better world is possible!
Labor Working Group