House Votes to Grant Bargaining Rights to Nation's Public Safety Workers

An overwhelming majority of House members on July 17 voted to approve legislation that would guarantee firefighters, police officers, first responders and other public safety workers across the nation to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

H.R. 980, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act -- one of the strongly supported pieces of legislation in this Congressional term -- received extensive bipartisan support, passing with a 314-97 vote.

“The brave men and women who risk their lives each day and serve as our first line of defense against medical emergencies, criminals, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks deserve the right to bargain with their employers,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “Collective bargaining rights will enable rank-and-file public safety workers not only to improve their own working conditions, but also to have more input into the day-to-day operations of their departments.”

According to Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., the bill's author, some states deny public safety workers the “basic right to discuss workplace issues with their employer -- a right every American has.”

Virginia and California Prohibit Collective Bargaining

Approximately 20 states do not fully protect the collective bargaining rights of firefighters, police officers, corrections officers and emergency medical service workers. Two states -- Virginia and North Carolina -- prohibit public safety employees from collectively bargaining at all.
In addition to having the right to collectively bargain over hours wages and working conditions, other provisions of the bill will give state and local public safety workers:

  • The right to join a union;
  • The right to have their union recognized by their employer;
  • A mediation or arbitration process for resolving an impasse in negotiations; and
  • Enforcement of the bill’s provisions through the courts.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which fought hard for the passage of the bill, applauded the House's support for the measure.

“The House of Representatives has taken a major step in securing basic collective bargaining rights for first responders throughout the country,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The police officers, firefighters and emergency services workers who ensure the safety of our towns, cities and states deserve the protections this bill provides.”

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