Labor Day is a celebration of the labor movement and its representation of the interests of workers in American society. Unions have historically been a force for good as workers fought for better conditions. But 2020 has brought us a reality check about just how toxic organized labor—in the form of police and teachers unions—can be. These organizations aren't solely responsible for the ongoing disaster that is this year, but they've done their best to make it worse.
New York City's Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, opposes standardized penalties for police misconduct. In July, it joined in a lawsuit with unions representing firefighters and corrections officers to block the release to the public of records of police officers who have been disciplined.
The union representing New Jersey state troopers similarly sued to keep disciplinary records secret. San Francisco's police union filed a lawsuit challenging the city's right to revise its use-of-force policy. California police unions joined together to defeat a bill that would have barred officers guilty of serious misconduct from further police work.
Teachers unions, too, bear responsibility for worsening the catastrophe known as 2020. It's a union's job to protect the health and safety of its members. But teachers unions consistently went far beyond that mandate, choosing to play politics and push an unrelated anti–school choice agenda rather than focusing on reasonable accommodations in the middle of a national crisis.
As New York City officials struggled at the end of August to get schools reopened with precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the United Federation of Teachers engaged in brinksmanship, leaving parents uncertain as to when, or whether, their kids would be able to resume educations cut short in the spring. The next day, city officials caved and school reopening was pushed back 11 days, subject to union conditions.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) demanded wealth taxes, police reform, and a moratorium on charter schools as necessary preconditions for reopening public schools. The union settled for concessions that were more job-related.
"Teachers won newfound respect at the start of the pandemic as parents learned just how difficult it was to teach their kids at home," Politico noted of the flurry of union arm-twisting across the country. "But teachers unions now risk squandering the outpouring of goodwill by threatening strikes, suing state officials and playing hardball during negotiations with districts."