Bay Area labor unions call on city of Oakland to defund police department

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Bay Area labor unions are calling on the city of Oakland to defund its police department.

Demonstrators gathered outside Oakland’s Police Officers Associations headquarters, demanding for change in police budgets.

Multiple labor unions demonstrated Wednesday calling for divestment from police budgets and investment in community needs.

Outside Oakland Police Officers Associations headquarters Wednesday, protesters demanded change within the Oakland Police Department’s budget.

“Our labor movement is about fighting for the common good and making sure that the voices of the unheard are heard,” Sanjay Garla, vice president of SEIU-USWW said.

George Floyd’s death sparked widespread protests around the world against police brutality, and now calls to defund police departments.

The Oakland Police Department’s annual budget is $330-million, a budget Garla says needs to change.

“What we need to do is invest in our communities and to make sure they are able to thrive,” Garla said. “So we cannot advocate for policing over the lives of the vast majority of the labor movement, especially for our black members, our brown members, who are struggling to make ends meet.”

A number of Bay Area labor union groups came together to issue this call.

Many of the members are essential workers: janitors, airport, hotel workers, security officers and teachers.

“The reason I’m here is because I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m upset as a black woman with a black son,” AFSCME 3299 member Cat Bedford said.

AFSCME 3299 represents 27,000 workers at the University of California. 

Bedford works at the Berkeley national laboratory. She is one of many demonstrators here calling for change in OPD’s budget.

“I’m tired because of the fundings are not going to the community programs,” Bedford said. “School programs are being cut but fundings are going to them (OPD) and when it goes to them it’s going to riot gear, tear gas, high power weapons.”

In response to Wednesday’s protest, Oakland’s POA released this statement saying Oakland police officers respect labor workers and listed examples of the department’s leadership, such as implicit bias training and implementing reforms around the use of force.

On Monday, City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas told KRON4 she is proposing that Oakland redirects its policing budget by at least $25 million into community programs.

Mayor Libby Shcaaf tells KRON4 the city’s proposed budget cuts $5 million from OPD and adds millions of dollars to homeless services, affordable housing, job training — categories the mayor believes is reflective of what people are demanding.

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