After two weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, the Writers Guild of America East took an unprecedented step — confronting a powerful law enforcement union. On June 8, the WGA East became the first member of the AFL-CIO to call on it, the largest labor group in the U.S., to disaffiliate from the International Union of Police Associations, the only law enforcement group represented by the federation. (The largest police union, Fraternal Order of the Police, operates outside of the AFL-CIO.)
Born primarily out of its media members' interest in the issue — reporters were arrested and, in some cases, injured during demonstrations — the WGA East resolution has brought into focus the tangible ways unions may choose to fight for racial justice. "The AFL-CIO cannot, in good faith, represent the best interests of the police and also represent the best interests of all the other working people who are out here getting arrested, beaten up and abused by the police," says Hamilton Nolan, a member of the WGA East council that passed the resolution and a labor reporter for In These Times magazine.
But other Hollywood AFL-CIO members, in talks with WGA East leaders, have signaled that they're split over whether they can aid police reform more effectively by keeping the IUPA close or by disassociating from it (moreover, other unions in the federation also have police members, just not exclusively). For its part, SAG-AFTRA shared June 11 that its president, Gabrielle Carteris, who is also an AFL-CIO vice president, had called on police unions to change practices that protect officers who have engaged in racially charged misconduct from discipline, even if that means retooling collective bargaining agreements. SAG-AFTRA also signed on to a letter, delivered to the House of Representatives on June 23, in support of the proposed Justice in Policing Act, which, in part, would ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants.