If they had been paying attention, criminals in East St. Louis could have had run of the streets on New Years Eve when nearly an entire shift of police officers came down with something highly contagious called a strike. However, since police aren’t legally allowed to strike, it’s not called a strike. Instead, it’s called the “blue flu” and, like other union-related illnesses, it sometimes comes on all at once.

On Friday, all but one of the officers called in one hour before their shift was due to start (and one day after the city council voted to lay off one-third of the police force in order to balance the 2011 budget).

Oddly enough, the head of the police union doesn’t seem to think it was a strike either. In fact, it would appear that whatever affliction ailed an entire shift of East St. Louis police officers was wholly approved of by their union.

The president of Fraternal Order of Police Union Lodge 126 says he believes the men who called in sick Friday were actually sick and not participating in a work stoppage as a letter hand delivered to most of the officers said.

Nearly all of the scheduled police officers on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift called off sick one hour before they were scheduled to report to work.

The officers called in sick the day after the City Council approved the layoffs of 16 police officers effective as of Saturday.

Kendall Perry, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 126, said the men have been under a lot of stress with the mandatory furloughs and the threat of the layoffs hanging over their heads for a while. And, then he said the weather conditions have been changing, which could have caused some of the men to have flulike symptoms.

“If they were sick, they were within their rights to call off. I believe they were sick,” he said.

Perry said the men have sick days and if they are sick they can call off without fear of retaliation from members of the police department.

He said he doesn’t believe the men were participating in a work stoppage. [Emphasis added.]

No, of course it wasn’t a work stoppage. Unions are, after all, just a 24-hour bug.

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“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.”  Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

X-posted.