Tags: politics

Act seeks nationwide empowerment for public safety workers

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In a significant legislative development, the bipartisan Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act has been reintroduced this week, poised to bestow essential labor rights upon thousands of firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel across the United States. This pivotal legislation aims to grant public safety workers the right to form a union, collectively bargain for equitable hours and remuneration, and establish efficient mechanisms to overcome impasses in negotiations.

“Today, a large number of our country’s firefighters and EMS workers are voiceless, unable to stand up for themselves, their families, and the communities they swore to protect,” said General President Edward Kelly. “This right to advocate is one that every worker should have. When we’re seated at the bargaining table, we’re championing health and safety improvements that save lives.”

Upon enactment, the bill promises basic collective bargaining rights nationwide, extending to 18 states where such rights are currently unattainable for firefighters. This legislation provides states with the flexibility to draft and enforce their laws while adhering to the following minimum standards:

  1. The right to form and join a labour organisation and achieve recognition through the formation and agreement of a contract.
  2. The right to negotiate working conditions, hours, and wages.
  3. The ability to break negotiation deadlocks and, if an agreement is reached, enforce it in court or through an administrative agency.

This legislation expressly prohibits strikes or lockouts, respects right-to-work laws, and does not interfere with existing state laws and collective bargaining agreements.

Republican Rep. Pete Stauber, a former police officer, and Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee were at the helm of the bill’s reintroduction.

Stauber, reflecting on his own experience as a union-forming police officer, stated: “Labor rights are essential for the brave souls who risk their lives daily serving our communities. Given the recent challenges our public safety officers have faced, securing their voice in the workplace is more critical than ever.”

Kildee added: “Every worker, including police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers, should have the right to join a union and bargain for better wages and safer working conditions. I am proud to collaborate with Republicans and Democrats alike to extend collective bargaining rights for public safety officers.”

The bill’s cosponsors include Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Mike Bost (R-IL), Angie Craig (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Tom Kean (R-NJ), Susie Lee (D-NE), Mike Levin (D-CA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Gabe Vasquez (D-NM).

“The IAFF proudly endorses the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2023. We urge Congress to pass this pragmatic, bipartisan legislation and protect the basic labor rights of American workers,” said Kelly. “If you are willing to risk your life for others, you absolutely deserve a seat at the negotiating table.”

About the IAFF

The IAFF represents the interests of professional fire fighters and paramedics in the United States and Canada. It’s committed to improving working conditions, ensuring health and safety standards, and promoting fairness and equality for all fire service professionals.

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