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caption: Seattle police officers deploy chemical agents, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades on protesters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street on the 10th day of protests in Seattle following the police killing of George Floyd, shortly after midnight on Monday, June 8, 2020, in Seattle.
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Seattle police officers deploy chemical agents, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades on protesters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street on the 10th day of protests in Seattle following the police killing of George Floyd, shortly after midnight on Monday, June 8, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle police union tossed out of King County labor council

The King County labor council threw out the Seattle police officers union in a contentious vote Wednesday night.

The decision comes amid protests around the country against police brutality that have highlighted the role police unions play in maintaining the status quo.

About 55 percent of delegates to the council, called MLK Labor, voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

The council is an umbrella organization that represents over 100,000 workers and more than 150 unions.

The vote could increase pressure on elected officials in Seattle to hold police more accountable in future contracts.

The police union has been seen as an impediment to some of the reforms that have long been sought, including those demanded by federal court oversight that the Seattle department has been under for a decade.

But the recent protests, and use of tear gas and pepper spray on people demonstrating peacefully, have focused new attention on the union.

Union members who were part of MLK Labor circulated a petition to remove the police union from the council. They said the labor movement was sacrificing black and brown workers for the sake of a white labor movement, and that unions should distance themselves from policing.

In a statement, MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant said, "Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large. Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer welcome in our council."

The council had given the police union a deadline of Wednesday to acknowledge problems of racism in its ranks and take steps to address them.

The union issued open letters in early June during the height of the Seattle protests, lamenting the death of George Floyd in Atlanta and promising to do better.

But those voting appeared to believe those fell short of what the council was demanding. SPOG President Mike Solan disagreed.

"We met the resolution demands” to admit racism is a structural problem in law enforcement and agree to address it, he said Thursday. “And I find it troubling that although we’ve met the demands, we’re being removed. In my view, it’s unacceptable. But we’re open to continuing to have these conversations and meetings.”

In a statement Thursday, SPOG said: “Today’s troubling political decision should sound the alarm to other public safety labor unions across our region, state and nation that they’re next.”

“It was a very close vote," Solan said. "We’re thankful to the other labor unions that comprise the labor council for their support."