In the aftermath of police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, and other communities, some commentators have suggested that police unions are part of the problem. While this article by long-time PNLHA member Marcus Widenor does not address the current situation, it provides insights through an examination of Oregon’s first police strike in Klamath Falls, OR, in the early 1970s.
The strike occurred just as the state legislature was negotiating the final provisions for a comprehensive public employee collective bargaining law. The article offers a narrative account of the strike itself, and an analysis of some of the organizational characteristics of the police officers’ union and its job action.
The strike is seen in the context of the history of police unionism, as well as in terms of the overall growth of public employee unionism in Oregon and the United States. It illustrated that militant police unionism was evident in smaller communities, like Klamath Falls, Oregon, as well as in larger, eastern urban communities, where it has been most carefully studied.