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Wednesday, September 23 • 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Police Unions: What Is To Be Done? (NLG Labor and Employment Committee CLE)

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UPDATE 10/1 - RECORDING AVAILABLE: Watch the recording of this program here! Password is (includes exclamation mark):


(NOTE: This recording is only meant to be accessed by convention registrants and NLG members. Please do not circulate publicly.)

A reminder if you're an attorney seeking CLE credit for this program, please complete and submit the following forms that were emailed to you after the session:-------------------

CLE Credit: 3 Hours for General (Topical content, skills training, law practice management)

Amid calls for defunding police and expelling police unions from the labor movement, the NLG Labor & Employment Committee, with co-sponsors the NLG National Police Accountability Project and the NLG Military Law Task Force, presents a half-day webinar exploring police unions in their historical context, the relationship between law enforcement locals and other unions, the politics of expelling police unions from labor federations, an understanding of police union-management collective bargaining, including responsibility for and impact of harmful police union contract provisions, strategies to challenge police brutality while maintaining a pro-labor stance, and a discussion of the role of labor lawyers in this moment. This workshop aims to give participants an understanding of both the history and current state of police unions as a lens through which to see the work of dismantling state violence while protecting the rights and livelihoods of workers as a whole.

(CLE Credit will be given through the State Bar of CA. After the convention, we'll be emailing out attendance verification forms to all attendees.)



Sponsors: Labor and Employment Committee, National Police Accountability Project, Military Law Task Force

Part I: Historical and Political Context
In this opening section, panelists will situate police unions in their historical and political contexts, by giving an overview of the professionalization of policing and growth of police unions over the past century, as well as the challenges they pose for contemporary social justice movements and politics. This will ground the audience with a basic understanding of police and their unions’ role in labor history, how these unions evolved to their current state, and why they are a target for those pushing to reform and/or abolish policing.

Aaron Bekemeyer is a Harvard PhD Candidate studying the history of American capitalism in the 20th century.

Roger Toussaint started as a cleaner in New York City's subways in 1984, became a rank and file activist, and was elected President of the 38,000 member Transport Workers Union Local 100 in NY from 2001-2009.

Kim Kelly is a freelance writer and organizer based in Philadelphia. She is currently the labor columnist for Teen Vogue.

Part II: Relationship within Federations and Broader Labor Movement

In Part II, panelists will explain the relationship between law enforcement locals, other locals, and labor federations; the internal governance processes that would enable or block expulsion of certain locals; as well as how potential expulsion would affect other workers who are members of those federations. We will also engage in a discussion of police unions’ relationship to other public unions, including whether both rhetoric and proposed changes to police unions and contracts could have collateral impact on other public sector unions and will explore whether strategies developed in other public sector unions, such as bargaining for the common good, could be used to produce fairer and more transparent police contracts. In addition, panelists will touch on what is encompassed when the labor movement talks about law enforcement unions: are ICE and CBP officers included; correctional facility guards, etc? What does our definition of who is included in this category mean for a call to demilitarize and defund police?

Ana Avendaño is a lifelong worker advocate who has served as an Associate General Counsel to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, as well as Assistant General Counsel to the AFL-CIO, and Assistant to the AFL-CIO President for Immigration and Community Action.

Carmen Berkley is an award winning political strategist, entrepreneur, radio host, and DJ striving to change the world through politics, social impact, creative expression, and culture.

David Unger is a labor educator at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, an adjunct instructor at Empire State College, and also teaches diversity, mobilizing, and organizing classes for unions and social justice organizations around New York.

Part III: Challenging Police Union Misconduct 

In Part III, panelists will explore the nuts and bolts of police union contracts and explore how labor law and union membership may be able to protect individuals who act as whistleblowers within their departments or who want to resist racist or violent orders by superiors. We will look at examples of provisions of police collective bargaining agreements that protect officers who have been disciplined, had civilian complaints filed against them, and committed acts of racist brutality and other crimes and discuss these provisions, what their effect on police work is, and what can be done about them. (ex: including if these provisions can be eliminated from future contracts, either through bargaining or superseding state or federal statutes, and what kind of legal challenges that would pose, such as potential constitutional or labor law claims by police union members.) We will also consider the success of failures of combating police brutality through legal means, including what systems we have to hold police accountable, including civilian review boards, litigation, and other means.

James M. Branum is a military criminal defense and free speech attorney, author, and past chair of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild.

Michelle Gross is co-founder and president of Communities United Against Police Brutality and board member of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist focused primarily on issues of innovation, equity and justice. As a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter Movement and a co-founder of Campaign Zero, DeRay has worked to connect individuals with knowledge and tools, and provide citizens and policy makers with commonsense policies that ensure equity.

Leo Gertner is a labor and employment lawyer and writer living in New York. He has worked with the National Employment Law Project, Service Employees International Union, United Steelworkers, and Communications Workers of America.

Wednesday September 23, 2020 1:00pm - 4:00pm EDT
  Full and Half Day CLEs, Half-Day
  • JOIN BY TELEPHONE (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 646 558 8656 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 | Webinar ID: 822 2768 9119