It’s hardly a secret that priorities set by a union’s leaders cannot possibly reflect the beliefs and values of every single member. The question is whether they speak for even a majority.
This conundrum was exposed once again this week as new waves of dissension rippled throughout Oregon’s third-largest union.
The discord spread following an email sent to members from Oregon AFSCME’s executive board.
“We will do more than merely add our union’s name to a list or to the statements of others,” it read. (W)e will act, and we will fight to dismantle white supremacy. To be silent is to be complicit, and we will not be complicit. Black lives matter.”
However, the email was interpreted as hostile by a large portion of its recipients. Oregon AFSCME, don’t forget, represents multiple police agencies throughout Oregon, as well as the state’s correction employees — nearly all of whom would take issue the proposition that the nation’s law enforcement agencies are saturated with racists and would strongly resist Black Lives Matter’s call to “defund the police.”
There was so much pushback, in fact, that it prompted an apology email from Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Stacy Chamberlain. “It is evident,” she wrote, “that the wording or interpretation of the recent brief statement from the Council 75 Executive Board has troubled some of our members…”
Chamberlain’s attempt to walk back and justify the rhetoric from the board does appear to be disingenuous when considering the financial and other support given to organizations now advocating for defunding and demonizing police and public safety personnel.
For example, in the past five years, AFSCME 75 donated more than $750,000 in member’s dues dollars to Our Oregon, a hyper-partisan political committee fronting as a nonprofit.
In an email to supporters last week, Our Oregon decried “more than 400 years of police violence and murder of black Americans,” and urged supporters to “defund local police.”
Specifically, the group targeted the Portland Police Bureau, advocating a $50 million budget cut for the agency.
The wave of new membership resignations should therefore come as no surprise. When a union supposedly charged with advocating for employees’ rights on the job is not only complicit, but financially supporting organizations that are actively trying to take those same jobs away, members realize they have always been better off advocating for themselves.