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Collective Bargaining Rights for Public Safety Workers

June 20, 2007

From the Education and Labor Committee:

House Labor Committee Approves Bill to Extend Collective Bargaining Rights to Public Safety Workers in all 50 States

WASHINGTON, D.C. — By an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 42-1, the House Education and Labor Committee today approved legislation to guarantee the rights of firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical service workers in all 50 states to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

“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-CA), chairman of the committee.

“Our firefighters and police officers put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe. This was tragically demonstrated Monday night by the nine firefighters killed in a furniture warehouse fire in Charleston, South Carolina,” said Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI). “Unfortunately, some states in this country deny our public safety employees the basic right to discuss workplace issues with their employers — a right many Americans take for granted. My bill would grant these brave men and women this right. We owe it to them.”

“The committee’s nearly unanimous passage of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 marks a historic moment for the first responders of our country, who are the heroes of our nation,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “Today we honor the brave men and women who put themselves first by providing them with the indisputable right to collectively bargain. I am happy to be a supporter of this important piece of legislation and look forward to its passage on the House floor.”

Approximately twenty states do not fully protect the collective bargaining rights of public safety employees, and two states — Virginia and North Carolina — prohibit public safety employees from collectively bargaining.

The bill would provide basic labor protections for state and local public safety workers, including:

* The right to join a union;
* The right to have their union recognized by their employer;
* The right to bargain collectively over hours, wages and terms and conditions of employment;
* A mediation or arbitration process for resolving an impasse in negotiations; and
* Enforcement of the bill's provisions through the courts.