Unions representing U of M workers demand police be disarmed

This comes after President Joan Gabel announced an increase in police patrols following a surge in violent crime around campus.

University of Minnesota/Facebook

Four local AFSCME unions representing workers on University of Minnesota campuses are demanding that U of M police be disarmed and that “community control” of the department be established as part of their new collective bargaining contract negotiations.

This comes as U of M President Joan Gabel just announced an increase in police patrols following a surge in violent crime around campus and five people being shot in Dinkytown over the weekend, including three students.

The four union locals, 3800, 3801, 3937 and 3260, which represent U of M clerical, technical and healthcare workers through the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), are also making several other demands that involve the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD).

The demands came to light in a Facebook post last week by Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc. (LELS), a union that represents law enforcement officers, which raised concerns about the demands.

LELS stated that negotiations began this month between the U of M management team and the four union locals.

In addition to the demand that UMPD be disarmed, the locals included in their opening proposal that “annual extensive training with safety and procedures/drills” for UMPD be outsourced to a provider other than UMPD. The proposal suggested a provider such as the Aurora Center — a department established by the U of M that advocates for victims of sexual assault. The proposal also specifies that the request not be used to justify an increase in police officer staffing or funding.

The locals also demand “community control of the UMPD” through the establishment of a police oversight council. The proposal seeks to exclude anyone connected to law enforcement from serving on the council. The exclusions include relatives of law enforcement officers as distant as nieces, nephews, grandchildren and first cousins.

“It is absolutely mindboggling to me why AFSCME would allow their membership to put items like this in a bargaining proposal to the employer, which would not only endanger the staff of the University of MN, but also the students on campus,” LELS Executive Director Jim Mortenson said.

“It’s beyond hypocritical of AFSCME bargaining units to both represent police organizations and advocate for such anti-police requests with other bargaining units,” he added.

Police actions and relations have been under the microscope at the U of M since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody last year. Nearly immediately following Floyd’s death, President Gabel made a public show of cutting ties with the MPD following a petition drive led by then president of the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), Jael Kerandi.

In February of this year, a student caused an uproar on campus by trying to claim that he was profiled and mistreated by UMPD who stopped and had a conversation with the student while searching for an armed robbery suspect. The false accusation was exposed when UMPD released dashcam video of the encounter that completely refuted the student’s claim.

In April, Lauren Meyers, a member of the MSA, urged her peers to “disrupt” the campus police department by annoying “the s— out of them.”

Also in April, the MSA pushed for UMPD to withdraw from a county-wide policing task force after learning that UMPD had participated in law enforcement activities connected to the demonstrations and riots that followed the officer-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.

The union locals’ opening bargaining proposal contains 66 wide-ranging demands covering seven single-spaced pages that range from police issues to increased wages, flexible workplaces and schedules, hazard pay, and expanded healthcare coverage for trans and gender non-conforming individuals, among many other demands.

A video summary of the opening proposal was recently posted online in which members of the unions’ bargaining committee claimed the U of M doesn’t care about its workers.

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