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Police unions "should be able to negotiate disciplinary stuff" to protect officers from unfair punishment, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said during an "Axios on HBO" interview.

Why this matters: Following last year's death of George Floyd during an arrest and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, law enforcement unions are at the center of a heated debate in the labor movement.

  • Racial justice leaders, the BLM movement and some unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO believe police unions don't belong in the labor movement because they use their collective bargaining powers to shield cops from accountability and block reform efforts.
  • They say it's inappropriate to negotiate leniency for police misconduct and that agreements make it hard to fire officers who abuse their power or mistreat vulnerable minorities.

Trumka pushed back, saying without the power to negotiate disciplinary actions, the outcomes could be "capricious" in ways unfair to officers.

  • Among the AFL-CIO's diverse federation is the International Union of Police Associations, which negotiates on behalf of some local police unions.
  • "Look, I came from a coal mine. My grandfather helped organize that coal mine and we didn't have any protection," Trumka said. "The employer did all the disciplinary stuff. And I could tell you, it was never fair and it didn't help in policing."

Yes, but: Police officers are authorized to carry guns and use lethal force in their jobs.

  • Progressive critics of police unions argue that to bargain over disciplinary proceedings for an officer who may have killed an unarmed Black man is a fundamentally different proposition than negotiating sanctions for a coal miner or a teacher.

Other highlights: During the interview, Trumka also defended his legacy in the labor movement amid a period of decline.

  • He pushed back aggressively against criticisms from younger union leaders that the movement under his watch has put too much money and focus into political donations and not enough into organizing.
  • On the fraught topic of school reopenings, he sided with the Chicago Teachers Union and dismissed comments from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccinations need not be a prerequisite for teachers to return to classrooms.
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a tentative deal today that would reopen schools for parents seeking in-school instruction.

Editor's Note: Updates with tentative deal for Chicago and its public school teachers.

Go deeper

Feb 7, 2021 - Axios on HBO

“Axios on HBO” exclusive: Top labor leader hits Democrats

Coming up on "Axios on HBO" at 6 p.m. ET/PT: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka criticizes Joe Biden for costing American jobs with his Keystone pipeline decision and former Presidents Obama and Clinton for slighting unions. 

  • Also on the show: Ex-Parler CEO John Matze and Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg.
  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 7 at 6 p.m. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.
Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
46 mins ago - Economy & Business

The Fed could be firing up economic stimulus in disguise

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard at a "Fed Listens" event. Photo: Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images.

Even as global growth expectations increase and governments pile on fiscal spending measures central bankers are quietly restarting recession-era bond-buying programs.

Driving the news: Comments Tuesday from Fed governor Lael Brainard suggest the Fed may be jumping onboard the global monetary policy rethink and restarting a program used following the 2008 global financial crisis.

Democrats' hypocrisy moment

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be facing explicit calls to resign from President Biden on down, if you apply the standard that Democrats set for similar allegations against Republicans. And it's not a close call.

Why it matters: The #MeToo moment saw men in power run out of town for exploiting young women. Democrats led the charge. So the silence of so many of them seems more strange — and unacceptable by their own standards — by the hour.