Police Unions, Shake Shack, and The Milkshakes of Machinations

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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41 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    Of course City Journal takes a Union bashing line. I will be somewhat fair though because progressive outlets are also calling for the abolishment of police unions. The problem is that Unions are often the only ways most workers have any power at all. I am not sure how to square the circle here. Also I think our Jesse has a point. Getting rid of police unions is more likely to screw the woman who does admin and not the officers on the beat.

    The “it’s us or chaos” line might just be a sincere and authoritarian thought.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Pivoting from “the people who disagree with me are immoral” to “well, the people who disagree with me are moral but they don’t understand pragmatics” is less than no fun.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Hey look… we agree!

        Saul.. you often decry partisanship. But this statement is literally the definition of such: “Of course City Journal takes a Union bashing line. I will be somewhat fair though because progressive outlets are also calling for the abolishment of police unions.”

        “Of course the bozos who have a different ideological bent than I do take this awful position. Then again, the saints who share my ideological bent have a reasonable position that just so happens to dovetail with the bozos and their awful position.”Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Getting rid of police unions is more likely to screw the woman who does admin and not the officers on the beat.”

          “Why don’t you see this as an opportunity to hire more women?”Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m told that it’s okay to entrust government with virtually unlimited power because it’s accountable to people through democratic elections. Given that government employees work for the government, shouldn’t they be able to exercise power over their employers through the ballot box?Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      How are they union bashing? Or is any discussion of the downsides of the American Union verboten to you?Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    Maybe Jessie Smollet can help them with their image.Report

  3. Oscar Gordon says:

    I saw this on FB, posted by a friend who is Blue Friendly. Big statement of how awful this is. No mention that the police themselves later cleared everyone.

    Obviously, this is what they want.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    Shorter City Journal:
    “Man, those cops are out bashing heads and being racist! We need to fire some teachers and strip them of benefits.”

    We just talked about this last week, where there seemed to be some sort of consensus that stripping disciplinary procedures from police would be effective, while leaving them the power to bargain collectively for pay and benefits.

    Now here we have someone doing exactly what we fear, making the case that collective bargaining itself is the problem.
    For cops, teachers, and anyone who works for the government.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      “They want to fire some teachers and strip them of benefits? Better keep the racist cops out there bashing heads!”

      Let me know when Black Lives matter to you more than white jobs.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Equal protection is something of an all or nothing deal. If you tell cops they can’t have a union, you effectively end all public sector unions. If you tell cops that they can’t negotiate to subvert criminal investigations into their members, you put the infamous teacher rubber rooms at risk.

      Etc, ad nauseum.

      But please, tell me how your concern is not special pleading.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Its worthwhile to remember that the internal investigators are themselves cops, policing other cops.

        Would it be a persuasive argument that “Unless we free the IA to beat confessions out of recalcitrant cops, we will never be able to discipline them!”

        Of course not.
        For the same reason that “Unless we can summarily fire any worker without cause, we can’t enforce discipline/ quality control/ production speed!” is a foolish argument.

        They all have a vast excluded middle.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Do you feel that the argument that those who criticize police unions is best summarized as “Unless we can summarily fire any worker without cause, we can’t enforce discipline/ quality control/ production speed!”?

          Because if it’s not, there is more than one middle being excluded here.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

            That’s how I read the City Journal essay.

            Collective bargaining in the public-safety and educational sectors strips government executives of the tools they need to supervise and manage their workforces effectively.

            They don’t make any distinction between police unions and teacher unions, between collective bargaining over pay and benefits and collective bargaining over disciplinary procedures.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Is the statement made true or not? Union contracts often limit the ability of management to manage their work force, for good or ill. A lot of PSU contracts include terms that make it very difficult to fire employees, even for cause, so yeah, it’s a legitimate point of criticism.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Why is “Limit the ability of management to manage their workforce” a bad thing?

                Should management have UNlimited power to manage their workforce?

                Wouldn’t that be just as silly as saying that management should have NO power to manage their workforce?

                It is possible to have some safeguards against unfair management behavior, while also allowing them power to do their core function, right?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Are you reading what I wrote, or just arguing with a strawman of me in your head?

                Let me write this out again:

                …include terms that make it very difficult to fire employees, even for cause…

                See that bit at the end, ‘even for cause’, that’s kind of important to my point, because ‘for cause’ is something that is spelled out and not arbitrary.

                If a Union wants to be able to prevent management from dismissing employees because management doesn’t like women, or POC, or gingers, or whatnot, that’s fine.

                But if the employee is abusive to others, or a thief, or lazy, or any other of the common ‘for cause’ reasons to terminate, the union should, at most, just be able to make sure the employer has evidence and dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.

                I mean, this is the actual fecking problem with police unions, right? That an officer has demonstrated that they absolutely should not be trusted with a badge and a gun, and the union get’s them reinstated, or at the very least gets the history buried so the officer can get hired elsewhere. Do you truly think Unions should be able to keep dangerous people on the job just because? I get wanting to protect people from arbitrary and capricious dismissals, but there needs to be a bright line between that and employees who are just a train wreck.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                One thing to note, and this comes from my time managing represented employees, is that whenever such a person is disiplined you immediatley go to the contract and present that as part of your findings. IE you start any disiplinary report with a passage from the contract simply to show the union that yes, you do have the specific ability to discuss this, note it and keep it as part of the employees ongoing record. This keeps the union from greiving you first of all, but it also shows anyone looking that you take this thing seriously, and will use the law to make sure that you can do this.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m completely fine with taking disciplinary procedures entirely out of the hands of the police.

                Because I don’t think that the police management itself is any more inclined to fire bad cops. I think they foster and encourage the culture in the first place.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Out of curiosity, have you seen any “abolish the police!” type arguments? How about “defund the police”?

              Do you think “the union has secured a contract for officers which specifies a minimum amount of pay, hours, and overtime” is a good counter-argument against these arguments?Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Can we stick to the words I actually use, and avoid extrapolating to something I haven’t said?

          I have said, REPEATEDLY, that if we are going to allow public sector unions, that cops get a union. That does not mean that we can not pass laws to limit what kinds of terms can be included in public sector negotiations, but doing so will likely impact all public sector unions, not just police.

          We should also outlaw Police Bill of Rights kinds of laws as violating equal protection, but that is a slightly different topic.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    There are bad-faith actors embedded in unions, abusing the power this brings them. This is a repeated pattern.

    If this brings you to call for the destruction of unions: consider this:

    There are bad-faith actors embedded in corporations, abusing the power this brings them. This is a repeated pattern.

    The situation needs to change. We have institutional problems. I’m not arguing for status quo. It’s just the union-bashing seems pretty unexamined.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I find myself in a weird place where “criticizing police unions” is immediately conflated with “union-bashing”.

      I have criticisms of private sector unions, yes. A good example is the truck drivers at Hostess. I think the unions were pretty dumb and shot themselves in the foot. This is a different criticism than “they shouldn’t be allowed to have a union”. My saying that their move resulted in their loss is not “bashing”.

      But this is a different criticism than the ones I have of Police Unions. I’d point to stuff like the stuff that pops up when you google “Police Union defends” and look at the first handful of links. I’d look at stuff like cops getting fired for cause and then re-hired with back pay. I’d look at stuff like the Police Unions fighting against laws prohibiting “duty booty”.

      And that’s without getting into the history of opposition to Public Sector Unions shown by such luminaries as FDR (whose opposition to Public Sector Unions was examined).

      This seems like an argument that you shouldn’t have to argue against the position that we need to get rid of Police Unions until your opponents have demonstrated that they’ve read a handful of books.

      Which might work, in the short term… but what happens when they show up having read one?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        “I find myself in a weird place where “criticizing police unions” is immediately conflated with “union-bashing”.”

        Because the people you’re talking to don’t think that bad cops are being enabled by the union’s bad behavior; they think that cops are inherently bad and would be bad whether they had a union or not, so the union is irrelevant (and criticizing it just goes to show that you don’t care about cops being bad, you care about Grrr Unions Boo.)

        Which, the Buffalo cops resigning after the union said it wouldn’t protect them would seem like a good answer to that, but that’s eighth-dimensional thinking and the #ACAB crowd can barely manage to handle one…Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I’m happy to consider any structural change that limits the ability of bad faith actors to abuse power.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    Speaking of Police Unions, our friends at Arc Digital have published a piece by Walter Olsen talking about reining in Police Unions titled: “Taming the Police Unions“.

    In the essay, he touches on a number of excesses of Police Unions as well as findings that seem to indicate that members of Police Unions result in more problems like excessive force and violent misconduct. Read the whole thing, of course, but here’s the closer:

    In the meantime, there is scope for plenty of constructive cross-ideological cooperation aimed at reining in the organizations that have helped bring us to this point.

    (May I suggest the counter-argument of “but reining in these organizations isn’t a silver bullet that will result in all of us living in Utopia”?)Report

  7. Marchmaine says:

    Meanwhile, Chipotle is fuming that they sickened Randos and not Cops with their lax food prep oversight; Wendy’s twitter is holding back out of professional courtesy.Report

  8. greginak says:

    Comparing cop and teachers unions is a poor comparison that is more about yelling at unions. Not that these discussions are new. They are so old here that years ago i went to the trouble to look up research comparing student success in states with and without teachers unions. Very short version: no difference. Having teachers unions did not lead to poorer performance for the kids. Isn’t that sort of the point when talking about the “bad apple” teachers who can’t be fired, suggesting that it’s harming the kids. But that doesn’t seem to be true. You can certainly find among the highest performing states many with teachers unions but that is without accounting for the obvious confounding variables.

    The key difference between teachers and cop unions is that it is actually possible to fire teachers who F up though i’m certainly aware of the horror stories where that has been prevented by unions. But teachers have non-union admin who supervise them. Cops have other cops who supervise and investigate them which seems like a big difference. Also cops have a para military structure, a very different culture and different role is society. Comparing teachers and cops unions are a poor comparison.

    Of course i’m pro union, gov and non gov. I’m even fine with cops negotiating salary and benefits. It’s everything else that they shouldn’t be able to negotiate and which is a big source of the problem with them. They shouldn’t be able negotiate discipline or oversight or BS like the blue bill of rights. But why shouldn’t workers have some power?Report

  9. Slade the Leveller says:


    Attorneys for the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 12,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops, agree there may be important public policy reasons for preserving police complaint records, but argue that “as important as those concerns may be” they do not give the city the right to ignore the contract, which requires complaint records be destroyed after five years.

    “Changes … must come through bargaining, not fiat,” a union motion reads.

    Why on earth would the city even make this a bargaining point? This is the problem with public sector unions. There is no one with a vested interest on the other side of the negotiating table. The whole store is given away in the interest of labor peace.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      I think that depends on the public sector union. Plenty of teachers from Kindergarten to community college to prestigious “public ivy” universities don’t seem to have any shortage with people with a vested interest in telling them no and instituting furloughs, budget cuts for supplies, hiring and pay raise freezes, etc.

      Other government employees get similar cuts and furloughs. The police seem more untouchable and able to hurt any politician that seeks to reform them.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Sure, but that is a feature of all public unions, the police just leverage that feature more effectively than any of the other ones. This is what I mean by special pleading and equal protection. If you hamstring the police union such that they can’t do that anymore, you will have to hamstring all public unions in the same way.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Slade writes: “Police Unions do this awful thing with regards to public records”

        Saul writes: (comment that defend public sector unions in general and discusses teachers not having access to school supplies)

        This is nuts.

        Here’s a question for the supporters of teacher unions: If a gym coach was reprimanded for having sex with a student and the leadership found that the relationship was “consensual” and then the coach was let back after receiving additional training, is that record something that you, as a parent, ought to have access to before deciding whether to let your kid try out for basketball?Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        This past Fall here in Chicago the public school teachers went on strike for 14 days. It was actually settled a few days prior to that, but it went on longer because there was a tussle about getting paid for the strike days. So, they were actually striking about being on strike.

        The strike was actually pretty popular amongst CPS parents, because the union was able to frame it as being about more than the cash on offer. Which is was, really. They did a lot of good for the school system with their strike.

        By the end of it, however, public sentiment was starting to turn against them, mostly due to the inconvenience of what to do with the kids, and the perceived greed about getting paid for the strike days.

        It was kind of interesting to watch the negotiations. Both sides got a fair deal. The point I’m trying to make is the city could have caved right away. The fact that they went on so long is entirely due to the mayor being willing to go to the mat with the union. It won’t always be that way.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

          Again, I think it depends on the union. It is almost always unpopular when say transit workers go on strike and I’ve lived through two. One was in NYC in December 2005 during a bitterly cold week, another was a BART strike in the Bay Area.

          Here, people complain because they have to get to work, it takes longer, plans get screwed, people worry about getting fired by unsympathetic bosses themselves, etc.

          Police unions are about one of the few groups that pays regular attention to city council elections. The other group is real estate developers. Plus the police do have a strong image of being the source of order and calm that a lot of people just went with until now.Report

          • Slade the Leveller in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Saul, I like football as much as the next guy, but you’re doing an end run around my point. Public employee strikes are never popular, and police unions are generally prohibited by law from even considering it. That is neither here nor there.

            What’s in the contracts that someone with a vested interest would object to?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Police unions are more able to use force than other unions.Report