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Police union election offers lessons for employers

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The highly publicized battle for the leadership of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis offers lessons for all employers with unionized workforces.

The changing of the guard—Lt. Bob Kroll toppled longtime union head Lt. John Delmonico—highlighted the clashes that sometimes characterize union elections.

During his 15-year tenure at the police union’s helm, Delmonico won kudos for building bridges with City Hall, including current Mayor Betsy Hodges. (That’s despite last year’s “Pointergate” scandal, in which Delmonico accused Hodges of flashing gang signs at a voter registration event.)

Delmonico ran on his record, pointing to his move to eliminate a residency requirement for officers as key for boosting minority membership on the force.

Several black officers spoke highly of Delmonico’s efforts to be inclusive.

However, Kroll won overwhelmingly on the strength of promises to bring fresh blood to union leadership. Since 2006, Kroll has represented officers during disciplinary hearings.

But Kroll has been the target of disciplinary hearings himself, and has also been accused of police brutality in lawsuits filed against the Minneapolis Police Department.

A separate lawsuit brought by a group of black officers claimed Kroll referred to U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is black and a Muslim, as a terrorist. He has denied making the remark.

Note: This story provides a glimpse inside union politics. From time to time, you may have to deal with changes in union leadership. Never get involved in the election. Remember that statements candidates make in the heat of a tight election may not represent intended policy in the future. Labor-management relations are adversarial by their nature.

Remain flexible and be prepared to work with whoever sits across the bargaining table.

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