Pittsburgh police officers who may be forced to work an upcoming Beyoncé concert will file an unfair labor grievance against the city, according to reports.
Police sources cited Friday by local media said officers see her album “Lemonade” as anti-police and they want to boycott her May 31 show. A spokesman for Mayor William Peduto denied reports city officials will compel officers to work the so-called “secondary employment detail” outside Heinz Field because not enough cops have signed up.
Yet Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 President Robert Swartzwelder told WPXI-TV his union will file an unfair labor practice charge against the city for violating the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The action doesn’t relate to Beyonce’s lyrics and the union isn’t pushing for any boycotts, Swartzwelder said.
Peduto and Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay “are intentionally violating the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act while hiding behind the veil of ‘Public Safety,’” Swartzwelder told the TV station. “Forcing officers to work secondary employment under threat of disciplinary action violates the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act when the C.B.A. clearly states ‘all secondary employment is voluntary.'”
Timothy McNulty, a spokesman for Mayor Peduto, noted in an interview with the Daily News that private security guards will ensure safety inside of Heinz Field during the concert. He declined to say how many officers would be needed outside the stadium.
Command officers will assign officers on duty to work the show if enough cops don’t volunteer for the extra work later this month, McNulty said. He called the union’s planned filing “just a contractual issue” during arbitration hearings on a new C.B.A. as police work under one that expired in 2014.
McLay and Swartzwelder will discuss the Beyoncé concert “soon,” McNulty said.
“The plan is in place for a full complement of officers to make it safe for those planning to attend the show,” McNulty said. “The Chief said he’s reaching out to the F.O.P. president today. Since we’re in current negotiations, this is the kind of back-and-forth that happens all the time.”
Swartzwelder said the police union will file the complaint after the concert if the city forces the officers to work it. Officers are still upset over the city’s insistence on their working at the city’s marathon a few weeks ago, he said.
“There are a myriad of reasons why officers don’t want to work the concert. But the city’s going to say, ‘No, you’re going to work the concert.” Swartzwelder said. “This is a labor issue. They violated it for the marathon and now they’re violating it for this concert.”
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance in a costume inspired by the Black Panthersprompted protests by several police unions. The music video for her single “Formation,” which forms the title of her current tour, features her singing on top of a New Orleans police cruiser submerged in floodwaters, a run-in between a young black boy and police in riot gear and a wall with ““Stop Shooting Us” written on it.
Yet Queen Bey said in an interview with Elle magazine last month that people who think the song is anti-police are “completely mistaken.”
“I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe,” Beyoncé said. “But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me.”