As the debate about public sector unions heats up we are hearing more stories about the abuse of power within the unions and how it affects the communities they serve and how this affects the people who these unions represent. Most organizers and local union officers start off with good intent. In the beginning, they truly feel they are doing a service for their coworkers and the community. Most local union officers never get to rub shoulders with international union bigwigs but for those who do start to move up, it can be a dramatic experience.
As a top union official, you get lost in the propaganda, twisted in a feeling of power and emerged in maintaining your status. You feel you cannot lose and your values get turned inside out. In the public sector, power is of utmost importance, the union leaders and politicians are trying to influence each other. The politician/union leader relationship is a tangled web and ideological lines sometimes get crossed. Sometimes you just get caught up in the process and begin to simply “obey” your union boss because everything is a fight. It’s “us against them” and “protect the working man”! The truth is they (union leaders) just don’t give a damn! Union leaders and politicians have personal agendas tied to the power they have achieved; it’s no wonder that cities and states are finding themselves in precarious situations within the labor movement these days.
Below is an article from former Nashville Police Officer, Local Union President and High Level Union Official, Calvin Hullett. Hullett had started at the bottom of the food chain and rose to the top. He has his own story of power, the struggle to keep it and the fall from power. His story shows how the unions use people to promote their agendas. The union gave him everything and took it away in the blink of an eye.
Rise to Power… Fall from Power – The Union Sell Out <h1>By: Calvin Hullett</h1>
When I joined the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which in my opinion is truly more of a “fraternal” organization than a union, it was solely for legal representation. I knew that if I ever became involved in a shooting or “use of force” incident, the union would provide an attorney since police officers immediately become suspects in such situations. What I didn’t know when I first joined the union was how senior ranking officers (management) would sell out an officer to improve their image and their political position. The union did their part by selling the illusion that they would provide a sense of self perseveration.
After a few years of serving as a rank and file member, it became obvious to me that those who served as union leaders were the ones who were getting the fast promotions and enjoying more perks on the job. It was my opinion, that these “union leaders” were achieving their advancement as a result of coddling the administration. We, the rank and file, never really saw a benefit from the union. I wanted to change that. I had a true desire to see the “little guy” succeed as well.
I decided to run for President at our local. I eventually won. I was ready to change the norm and make a difference. I ran on a platform of us joining together and acting like a “real union” rather than as a group of leaders who take care of themselves first. I did not know that this was the beginning of a personal rise to power and a fall from grace that would change my life forever, all because of politics, union greed and the union’s way of life that many are not aware of.
Within six months of my presidency I succeeded in my goal of bringing the officers together. My efforts caused heated debates with our Mayor. We rallied together “in solidarity” and staged protests. Because of my efforts, the Nashville police officers (and firefighters) secured the largest pay increase in the city’s history, 27.6%. I was making a difference for the “little guy”, but it wasn’t enough.
Rise to Power
In order to gain more power I needed friends in politics. Politicians were the people who made the laws and granted us pay and benefits. Our previous Mayor was running for Governor. Although our local union did not see eye to eye with him as Mayor, he was the Democratic candidate for Governor. I knew that we needed an alliance with a Democratic powerhouse to support our efforts in the labor movement. He was our guy! I was approached by his staff and asked if I could assist in his campaign. Having the Nashville Police Department’s support was an enormous asset to him on his campaign trail. As a politician, support from emergency services is a huge selling point to the voters. Before I knew it, I was flying around on a private Lear Jet and accompanying him at rallies and lending my endorsement. He easily won his spot in the Governor’s office. After his victory, I was contacted by every person running for state office and even the United States Congress and Senate. They all wanted MY support.
At this time, I was a Lieutenant on the Nashville Police Department but I was also the President of the union. The Governor knew this was an asset that he could leverage and that it would mutually benefit the two of us. The Governor asked me to serve on the state board that oversees all police departments in the State of Tennessee. It was my reward for my part in his successful campaign. I was just a Lieutenant, but on one day per month, I outranked our big city police chief. Issues that needed State approval had to go through me. We publicly butted heads several times.
As I rose to power I realized that the Fraternal Order of Police was not a very powerfull union. I decided that we needed more leverage. It was my decision to fight opposing factions within the FOP and the City of Nashville’s political system at the same time. Truthfully, I had started a play to bring the Teamsters in to represent the Nashville police officers while fighting for our pay increase. During that fight, the Teamsters were present and holding signs in support of our cause. I did not publicly support the Teamsters that year. Behind the scenes, I made phone calls and provided the inside information that they needed.
There was a vote to switch unions but the Nashville police officers decided to stick with the Fraternal Order of Police. The other leaders in our little group were not going to switch teams because they feared the loss of their power. The following year, the Teamsters strategically had me come out and publicly support them. The Teamsters won by a huge majority. Nashville was the Teamsters largest law enforcement agency. They were planning on taking over control of other police departments throughout the country and knew a win in Nashville would make is so much easier to win in other cities. At the direction of the Teamsters, our Local Union spent over one million dollars to win that campaign. We were led to believe that an increase in membership and wages would allow us to recoup that money or that it would be covered by the Teamsters at a national level, the union knew it was a promise they couldn’t keep but they had their victory.
I was immediately asked to come on board with the International Union (Teamsters), working directly for the international leadership as a law enforcement organizer. My salary was huge. I was provided with access to unlimited travel on the union dollar. In a span of one year, I worked on campaigns throughout the country, living on a plane like an executive. I was literally a known figure from Anchorage to Key West, from Los Angeles to New York, from Denver to Seattle. I was also well known in Washington, DC in the International Headquarters as well. The union touted me as the guy who was to grow this union and bring in the money. This was “big business”.
My job was to move from city to city and identify union friend and foe. I was directed to exploit major issues that our “friends” had with their current union and force our “foes” to side with us in victory. I had James Hoffa’s cell number on speed dial and had everything I needed from money to manpower at my disposal. From running a local union, I knew what resources they had to work with. I knew what to promise them in order to change their position with the Teamsters. I knew that I could walk into a local union and “educate” them on the things they “should” have. I would promise them financial support from the national level (support that would never come).
When I was done doing my job, I would leave behind a divided agency, one that management had little to no control of. The “little guys” hated their supervisors and vice versa. I would simply move on to the next city and begin the process all over again while the local union stewards were left to fight grievances day in and day out, all while the union was collecting a huge amount of hard earned dues from the “little guy”.
At this time, I didn’t have any moral concerns. I thought what I was doing was the right thing to do. Today, I look at everything that happened in the past (even without what I am about to share with you) and I see that we were giving them big ambitions for things that would never materialize. In reality, the wages and benefits that we were telling them they would receive would have to come from the municipality. The cities we were organizing didn’t have those resources and there was no way they would ever get them. Today I know better!
Fall from Power – Sold Out! I have always heard that silly phrase, “what goes up must come down” but never thought it would have such a personal impact. This phrase holds so very true with union leadership. The Fraternal Order of Police is headquartered in Tennessee. The Teamster’s knew that the victory in Nashville would cripple them, but it wasn’t enough. While with the Teamster’s, we got word that the Fraternal Order of Police was running a camp for under privileged children and the officers (and high ranking FOP officials) who were running the camp were emotionally abusing the children. We knew it was happening but lacked the proof. We wanted to expose them. I was told by the Teamsters that the only way we could catch them was to get it on video.
Arrangements were made to catch them. The Teamsters spent $8500.00 on equipment and “services” to catch these officers in the act. It worked; we had them dead to rights. The problem was that we got caught. This turned into a circus act. The reality of what had happened and who was behind it was twisted into a series of misinformation. It was a power play for the politicians and the unions and I was stuck in the middle, taking the beating. Eventually the story made the news and nobody wanted to admit they were part of it. The Teamsters denied any involvement and I was left to deal with it alone. I was asked to step out on the limb, while still believing I was helping the “little guy” and believed that I should and could do it without hesitation because I believed my “union brothers” would protect me. I didn’t fall off the limb; I was mugged and pushed by those same union leaders who gave me my “power”. The incident had gotten too close to them. It was jeopardizing their salary and secrecy. It was taking away their glory. So much for the “little guys”!
During this circus act, I learned that the leadership of the unions were thugs with serious criminal records. They proved that they will say anything and do anything to protect themselves from being exposed. I also found out that government officials in Washington D.C. would do anything to protect these leaders. It became clear to me that labor leaders at this level can either produce or block the votes they needed to get elected. I was in the spotlight and was being hung out to dry by the unions and our government! I was ALONE! My trip from being on top of the world to being stuck in the basement was a short one. It was straight, narrow and took place within minutes. Every bit of respect was gone. I was used to having a bullhorn and a platform to exercise my “power”. The unions and political machine kept my bullhorn and platform and used it against me. I had no way to defend myself.
I learned that depression and anxiety were very real. I couldn’t sleep. I had chest pains. I wouldn’t talk to anyone and closed up like a turtle in its shell. It was my only defense. I had never been on medication of any kind; I was always healthy (other than some back problems). I was now medicated to sleep, lower my blood pressure, relieve chest pains caused by anxiety and to try and put life back into my life; the life that the depression was taking away. They had taken the fight out of me.
I was faced with a harsh reality. I lost close friends because of this. The Nashville Police Chief ordered my coworkers not to associate themselves with me. They were trying to support me but were not prepared to lose their job and livelihood. These guys were career police officers with over 75 years of combined service. They did their best but had no choice. The chief was caught up in the politics and put my friends in a no-win situation. They had no choice.
My family suffered both publicly and financially. Because of my mental state of mind and medical issues caused at the hand of “my union” and politicians, I could not work. I took my family into massive amounts of debt and was ultimately forced to file bankruptcy. I gave up everything that I worked so hard to earn. Today, I find it ironic that I joined the union, believed in the union, and worked tirelessly to build the union because I believed in its benefits. Their platforms are always that unity can force employers to treat you fairly in wages and benefits for security of your family now, and after retirement. That same union took everything I worked for. In the end, they cost me over two hundred thousand dollars, along with my friends.
My teenage daughter suffered in school as other kids picked on her and made comments about her dad who was being portrayed as some evil man. She is a fighter, just like her dad! I’m proud to say that although she was upset about what was going on around her, she kept her head up, stayed focused and never let her grades fall. In fact, she is graduating this year with a 3.8 G.P.A. She is graduating at 16 years old, a year early, having skipped her junior year and will be starting college before her seventeenth birthday.
My oldest son is now twenty-four. All of his life he has dreamed of following in my footsteps and be a police officer. Law enforcement has a history of being in the blood of a family. Mine was no different. Unfortunately for him, law enforcement is one of those few jobs in our world where a detailed background is done before you can get a job. They will investigate your family. As proud as we are of our last name and what we stand for, my son is stuck with that name and his relationship to me. It is very likely that our last name will cost him his dream. Do you think union leaders and politicians stay up at night with that thought weighing on their mind? Me neither!
To date, it has taken nearly four years for me to begin to recover from the disaster that union leadership caused me. My values haven’t changed and they won’t. I will always stand up for what is right and for others who can’t stand up for themselves. What has changed is my vision of what is right and why it’s right. Powerful unions have a hidden agenda, one that most will never see. I have seen it! It’s not about the “little guy” to them. Those “little guys” are the platform that they stand on and literally walk all over. To the union, they will always be the “little” people. Union leaders need them to stay beneath them in order to have their platform. They will do all that is necessary to keep them there, including destroying those who have risen to the top in support of the “union way”.