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New AFL-CIO Task Force to Tackle Diversity, Police Reform Issues

July 10, 2020, 5:51 PM

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka announced the creation of a new racial justice task force, part of an effort to bridge a widening divide in the labor movement over police unions.

The roughly dozen members of the task force, representing several different unions, will seek to roll out a series of recommendations adopted by the labor federation’s general board last month. But the notable absence of police unions—which have criticized Trumka’s response to Black Lives Matter protests—raised fresh doubts about Trumka’s ability to work with police on reforming their practices instead of expelling them from the labor movement entirely.

In a statement, the AFL-CIO said Friday that the task force will “engage all corners of the labor movement in frank discussions about race, promote open dialogue on how to best build a more diverse labor movement, fight to make police reform the law of the land, encourage law enforcement unions to be agents of change and much more.”

Trumka resisted activists’ calls in June to cut ties with police unions, saying that the best way for the labor federation to address police brutality is to “engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them.” That didn’t satisfy more liberal unions, such as the Writers Guild of America East, which insisted police unions be kicked out of the federation.

Meanwhile, Trumka is receiving scathing criticism from police unions. In a June 12 letter that was first reported by the left-leaning magazine In These Times, Sam Cabral, president of the International Union of Police Associations, accused Trumka of “profiling” police officers by painting them all as violent toward people of color and “playing to the crowd” following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police.

While the union is willing to discuss “misconcepts” that cause fear of police, Cabral said, “We will not, however, sit down with those that march the streets calling for our death or those with a loud voice that have already indicted 850,000 men and women based on one horrible incident.”

IUPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at