Demand a Cop-Free AFSCME in 2022!

President Lee Saunders and the AFSCME International Executive Board

As members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees who are committed to fighting racial and economic injustice, we stand in strong support of the Black Lives Matter movement and an AFSCME that is cop-free.

On May 25, 2020, a white Minneapolis police officer killed 46-year-old George Floyd, a Black man, by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes while he pleaded for air. The Black community repeatedly faces the deaths of loved ones like Breonna Taylor--a Black woman murdered by police while sleeping in her bed--to police violence and anti-Black racism.

AFSCME claims to be dedicated to racial and economic justice, but rather than joining and amplifying calls for police disaffiliation, it has doubled down on its support of police within its ranks. AFSCME’s coordinated actions since May 2020 move at best to "limit" policies and practices that harm Black, Brown, and working-class people in an effort to appease rather than radically transform policing.

At the last convention in the fall of 2020, AFSCME:

  • Refused to consider a resolution to abolish cash bail, a debt and poverty trap for poor Black & Brown people that furthers the wealth gap in America.

  • Refused to consider a resolution to end no-knock warrants, which have disproportionately killed and victimized people of color.

  • Refused to consider a resolution to redistribute funding from the police to community-based solutions like mental health services, education, and housing.

  • Refused to consider resolutions to disaffiliate from its police union locals.

  • Instead, AFSCME crafted and passed their own resolution that calls to merely “limit” cash bail and no-knock warrants, refuses to redistribute funding from police, and reaffirms its support of police unions internally.

  • Most disturbing of all, AFSCME used this same resolution to reaffirm its material support for all law enforcement officers facing civil suits and court cases for misconduct, even though AFSCME Pres. Saunders said that “union contracts should not be construed as a shield for misconduct or criminal behavior.”

In May 2021, AFSCME participated in “National Police Week” by creating a special tribute video from International President Lee Saunders highlighting AFSCME’s commitment to cop unions and sending an e-blast to members across the country asking them to send a “thank you” message to cops. And even AFSCME’s messaging following the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd emphasized its support for policing and its “90,000 members” who work in law enforcement.

Cop unions do not belong in AFSCME. At its root, policing is both anti-worker and anti-Black: modern policing in the US has its origins in slaver patrols, and during the post-Civil War era police regularly engaged in union-busting.

Police unions exist within labor organizations like AFSCME and the AFL-CIO, but share little solidarity with Black & Brown people or the poor and working class, as evidenced by their favor among conservatives and support of reactionary, fascist figures like Trump. Police unions have also advocated for disproportionate funding to militarize police departments, diverting funding away from public services that workers and communities need.

We believe that police unions will continue to uphold these systems of oppression as long as they exist and hold power. We also believe that the labor movement is a crucial component of racial justice and liberation, and that AFSCME cannot continue to benefit from the image and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King while protecting the forces that enable and perpetuate white supremacy by offering mild “reforms” with no real impact -- in fact, that is exactly what happened at AFSCME’s convention in 2016, but our resolutions did nothing to stop the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others.

Dr. King wrote from a Birmingham prison that "freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." In 1968, our union led the drive to win bargaining rights for the sanitation workers of Memphis—an all–Black workforce who were savagely attacked by the all-white city cops. At the same time, AFSCME was actively organizing cops in other cities.

Now is the time to choose a side--we can no longer have it both ways. As former AFSCME President Wurf once said, "this union will go to the wall for you, but if you’re going to be racists or fascists, get lost."
Petition by
Washington, DC, District of Columbia

To: President Lee Saunders and the AFSCME International Executive Board
From: [Your Name]

We call on the AFSCME International Executive Board and the President to follow the courageous example set by AFSCME's own history and take concrete steps to support the following actions by the start of the 2022 convention:

1. AFSCME and the AFL-CIO: end our affiliation with Police Unions and direct our sizable political power towards the goal of defunding the police and re-allocating to life-affirming public services that work to keep ALL communities safe.

2. Endorse and advocate for the passing of the BREATHE Act.

3. Provide material support for local Black-led organizations.

4. Advocate for an end to qualified immunity for police, a full ban on cash bail, end no-knock warrants, remove police in schools, decriminalize sex work, and support re-enfranchisement of currently and formerly incarcerated people.

5. Make a true commitment to racial justice by creating an MLK memorial fund for Black workers within AFSCME, working to increase representation of Black union leadership proportionate to Black membership, no longer commemorating National Police Week, and adding racial justice to our stated “priority issues.”

6. All locals who represent corrections, probation, and parole officers and workers, urge staff and leadership within these unions to commit to contracts without qualified immunity that do not evade accountability and prohibit negotiations over anything involving use of force, work to eradicate racism within their ranks, serve and protect all people equally, and not receive assistance from AFSCME when disciplined for sexual misconduct, excessive use of force, or violence.

7. Divest from campaigns organizing law enforcement officers, jail and prison guards, probation officers, and armed security officers. Instead invest in union organizing campaigns to protect and empower sectors where workers are committed to racial equality, and developing non-law enforcement public service locals, wherein workers and peer-led networks find and build non-carceral solutions to social harms that keep communities together and center self-determination.

8. Commit to cop-free candidates: candidates who run on explicit platforms of defunding the police and reinvesting in non-carceral sectors and community-led projects and whose campaign funding guidelines reject donations from law enforcement entities. Refuse to support any political candidate who accepts donations from law enforcement officers, jail and prison guards, probation officers, and armed security officers locals or who intends to act against defunding the police.

By signing this you agree to have your name and union/local affiliation published along with this petition.