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BSO Leadership Must Support the Unions of Those Who Serve Broward

Unions have been an essential part of American life now for well over a century. Once viewed as a threat by the cruel bosses of the Industrial Revolution, Unions hold corporations and public sector employers to task by exposing work hazards, low pay and other threats to employee productivity and wellbeing. While this can sometimes be frustrating for employers, it’s important to everyone to understand the essential role that unions play in ensuring American workers are some of the safest, most productive and better-paid workers in the world. Today’s chiefs of industry and the public sectors alike recognize that they share at least one common goal with the unions that unite their workforces: the happiness and well-being of their employees. Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) was no exception to this rule – until now.

On April 10, 2020, Interim Sheriff Gregory Tony took the unprecedented step of allowing his frustration with the BSO Deputies Association to culminate in him suspending the president of the union, Jeff Bell. As the Coronavirus swept through South Florida, the union initially reached out on March 16th to Tony to offer help and were ignored. Then, on March 24th they reached out with a donation of much needed N-95 masks and were again completely ignored by the Interim Sheriff. Finally, after a BSO deputy died of complications related to the Coronavirus, the union began to actively criticize Tony for his lack of leadership. When the union roasted Tony for his decisions leading up and immediately following the death of his deputy, they could no longer be ignored. Tony held a ranting monologue of a press conference dedicated to threatening Jeff Bell, the union and the deputies it represents. Within days, Jeff Bell was suspended for the mere act of doing his job as union president.

To be fair, sometimes it can be challenging to face the demands of unions as a company or public sector employer. Unions are zealous protectors of the wellbeing of their membership and have lawyers, lobbyists and other advocates who see to it that their mission will be accomplished. Yet, the best leaders from all industries and public sector organizations know that the motives of most unions are aligned with theirs: happy, productive workers. Unfortunately for Broward County, its Interim Sheriff has been anything but an ideal leader often putting himself first and his deputies in the last place. His narcissism has been at odds with both the unions and, increasingly, his own deputies. Now, daily work at BSO has fermented into a toxic and political soup that undermines the productivity of every deputy and officer in the force and imperils the safety of those who live in and visit the county.

No one deserves to have to go to work knowing that their boss does not have their back, does not care about their wellbeing and does not intend to make decisions to support their basic health in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

…the best leaders from all industries and public sector organizations know that the motives of most unions are aligned with theirs: happy, productive workers.

Thankfully, the blowback against Tony has been swift. Today, April 20, 2020 deputies voted overwhelmingly against the Interim Sheriff (693 to 93) in a vote of no confidence that further puts pressure on him to resign. Jeff Bell, for his part, assembled a legal team to challenge his wrongful dismissal – darkening the already thunderous storm cloud over Tony. It’s now becoming clear that he made a terrible mistake to suspend the union president in the first place.

The final blow to Tony must come on August 18, 2020, when Broward resoundingly rejects his return to office in 2021. Broward deserves a better leader, a better law enforcement professional and frankly a better man in such an important role. I, Santiago Vazquez, am running for the office of Sheriff of Broward County to deliver the leadership that Broward so desperately needs.