On Monday, Oakland’s biggest city employee unions announced they’re united against a key part of a police reform ballot measure that would remove arbitration for cops disciplined for misconduct. The unions’ opposition to the reform proposal comes amidst a shocking police sex trafficking scandal that has shaken trust in the Oakland’s police force.
In a joint letter addressed to Public Safety Committee Chair Desley Brooks, unions representing most city employees, including SEIU 1021, IBEW Local 1245, IFPTE Local 21, IAFF 55 and the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA), said that they are “strongly opposed” to the removal of binding arbitration for Oakland cops. The unions say that the push to get rid of binding arbitration would promote an anti-labor agenda.
Under Oakland’s current rules, police officers who are disciplined for violating department rules can appeal the city’s penalties before an arbitrator. In recent years, Oakland cops have frequently prevailed and overturned discipline. Police reform activists say that the system has undermined public trust in the police, and hampered the department’s reform efforts because bad cops have been able to win their jobs back and make a joke of discipline imposed by the city.
In response to concerns expressed by OPOA and the city’s firefighter union IAFF Local 55, councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo recently added an alternative reform proposal to their ballot measure. The alternative would alter the arbitration system for police officers so that only a proposed civilian-run police commission would have the ability to select the panel of arbitrators who decide whether police discipline was warranted or not.
But the unions are opposed to this alternative too. “We believe the proposed language seriously undermines labor union rights,” the unions wrote about both proposals. “We are opposed to any language that modifies or eliminates the right to binding arbitration.”
The unions were previously supporting an alternative ballot measure being sponsored by Annie Campbell Washington, Abel Guillen and Larry Reid that would have retained arbitration. But over the weekend, the three councilmembers announced that they were “horrified, shocked and sickened” by new details being made public about the police scandal. As a result, they withdrew their ballot measure from consideration, saying that they would supported the Kalb-Gallo measure instead.
The ballot measure, including its controversial proposal to remove or modify binding arbitration for cops, will be debated at the Public Safety Committee meeting today at 4 p.m.