Is a union’s political threat considered free speech? That seems to be the issue in Panama City, Florida where the Teamsters union represents the city’s police officers and now stands accused of threatening Panama City’s mayor, Scott Clemmons, over the City’s bargaining position.
A letter sent by an Alabama Teamsters Union member, Jim Gookins to Mayor Scott Clemons and Commission Billy Rader outlined a proposed benefits package. The plan he claimed could save $40 thousand a year for Panama City’s 62 union officers, was never discussed during negotiations.
Griffin responded with a lengthy letter emphasizing proper procedure, stating, “it is unlawful for an employer to engage in direct dealing with employees who have a certified bargaining agent.”
A month later Mayor Clemons received a letter from Teamsters Washington D.C representative, with negative campaign ads against an unrelated politician attached.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he was threatening me that if I did not meet with him… that they would launch this campaign,” said Clemons.
Union Council Cecil Gardner says the letters were not a threat, but free speech.
“It’s not a smear campaign at all; it’s a campaign of public education. It might very well be a campaign which indicates that the police officers union is not satisfied with what the mayor has done,” he said, “We believe that the city is trying to intimidate the police officer’s union and chill their exercise of first amendment rights.”
Yes, it’s the Teamsters union. And, yes, it represents police officers.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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