Will the media ever wake up to this? Over the past week I've seen two articles that talk about this issue, out of tens of thousands of articles published during that time. They were both published in media that can't be considered radical but aren't really big enough to be counted among the mainstream media. One, in Business Insider, is by someone who realizes the scope of the problem, but another in Salon is from someone who doesn't.
A couple of recent cases have highlighted the role police unions play in facilitating corruption in police departments. In Orange County, CA, cops were trying to ruin city council members who opposed them by setting them up for arrest, and the police was union behind it. Here in Albuquerque, there's talk that a recently opened police investigation of the district attorney has similar motives. The cop union here has been credited in the past with taking down politicians who tried to reform it and when the union's spokeswoman was forced out recently it raised questions about her willingness to defend the police no matter what they do.
Alternet has an article out saying police unions have become too powerful in their ability to protect corrupt and killer cops, and that not even elected officials have control over the police.
If this is true it creates a dilema for those who support the Labor Movement, as I do, and also for the politicians, who rely on the police to protect the interests of the Capitalist establishment the politicians represent.
I haven't often commented on the problems with individual unions. The Labor Movement is so weak now, and that fact has so much to do with the declining living standards of American workers, and the reasons for things getting this way are so unknown to most people, I've concentrated on shedding light on the overall decline of Labor and the reasons for it. But some of labor's problems are self inflicted. Union members became complacent and let professional union leaders run everything. Union leadership became too cozy with the bosses. Presidents and top staff of the big unions are paid so much now they have more in common, in class terms, with Capital that with the workers they represent.
Police unions are a different matter. The police have a right to organize and bargain for the best pay and benefits they can get, in the context of the Labor Movement.
But to decipher the problems about police unions being a corrupting factor you have to look at the police from another perspective. Police are one of the coercive arms of the state (i.e. government and the Capitalist economy.) The police, like the military and the prison system, exist primarily to protect the interests of the state.
If the state can't control a police union, that's their problem. The problem lies in the fact that the people don't control the state. When the people are subject to police violence and corruption, it's not the union that has caused the problem but the state, which creates and legitimizes the police, the military and the prison system, and in the bigger picture our system that perpetuates state control over our lives.
Incidentally, if you've seen pictures or seen or video of the president of the New York Police Benevolent Association (the New York City police union), Patrick Lynch, and thought he looks and talks like a mobster, you'd be excused if you recalled the interconnected history of unions and the mob, which is what they often call the mostly Italian mafia especially back East. When the young Labor Movement was coming under brutal, often lethal attack from governments, at the behest of Capitalists of course, the mob often defended the striking or protesting union members. This community minded aspect of the mafia has been highlighted in movies like The Godfather, and this part of Labor history is brought to light in Louis Adamic's classic labor history, Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence In America.
Today you sometimes hear about certain unions being under "mob control" or being "mafia influenced," such as construction worker unions in New York or Chicago, casino workers in Atlantic City, or various Teamster, Longshoremen or other union locals. This is something that's hardly discussed within the Labor Movement and is seen as part of the effort to discredit unions. When unions have been investigated for mob influence the evidence is usually limited to some mob influence over hiring.