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House Democrats Quietly Shelve 2019 Bill To Strengthen Police Unions
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during a news conference unveiling policing reform and and equal justice legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2020. Democratic lawmakers released a broad police overhaul bill hoping to turn the energy of the nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations into concrete legal changes that could make it easier to prosecute police abuse and misconduct. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats are dropping a bill introduced in 2019 that would empower and strengthen police officer unions as backlash builds against police union power.

Democrats are large union backers and generally push for broader union powers in the workplace. The issue has allowed Democratic politicians to claim to be on the side of workers while passing legislation favorable to some of the party’s largest donors.

Since the death of George Floyd, at least one facet of that support is waning. Democrats are backing off support for police unions as the groups are increasingly seen as one of the primary means of protecting police officers from responsibility for police brutality.

House Democrats are shelving bill H.R. 1154 that would have allowed all public safety workers, including police, to collectively bargain with the government over the terms of their employment, according to Axios. The bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and co-sponsored by 225 other lawmakers, 206 of whom are Democrats.

Democrats are now pushing a new police reform effort, outlined in legislation rolled out on June 8. The new bill aims to curb police union power, as well as ban certain methods of detaining suspects and so-called “no-knock” warrants.

Congressional leaders introduced the bill in reaction to outrage over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, all black. A mass wave of protests began after Floyd died while in police custody on May 25. Video of his arrest went viral and showed a now-fired Minneapolis police officer using his knee to apply pressure to Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes while Floyd begged for relief.

Curbing the power of police unions is one of several issues that lawmakers seem to be in widespread agreement about. Republicans have generally complained that unions have too much power in public and private sectors, but have also supported police as GOP politicians claim to be in the party of “law and order.”

Democrats are cutting support for police unions while remaining generally friendly with organized labor. Aides say that any losses from pulling support from police unions will be minimal because law enforcement generally supports Republicans anyway.

“Police unions are very different. They’re very conservative, a lot of them are even Republican,” a House Democratic leadership aide told Axios. “They don’t have the same progressive beliefs.”

The GOP is working on its own response to police brutality and accountability, led in large part by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). The White House is also getting involved in discussions with GOP lawmakers and may look at options where President Trump can act unilaterally on police brutality with an executive order, according to Politico. Trump may announce the framework of a plan as soon as Thursday when he travels to Dallas.

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