House Introduces Bill to Give Collective Bargaining Rights to Public Safety Workers

February 13 • 2019

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2019 (HR 1154) was introduced February 12 in the House of Representatives by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), marking a crucial next step in the IAFF’s continued commitment to fight for basic collective bargaining rights for all public safety workers. A companion bill in the Senate is scheduled to be introduced later this month.

Champions on both sides of the political aisle have stood in support of the idea that fire fighters and all public safety workers deserve a set of basic workplace rights – rights that help determine effective and safe fire service for the public.

“As we move forward in the fight to provide basic collective bargaining rights to our members, we will continue to gather support from both sides of the political aisle,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “As a union, we pride ourselves in finding bipartisan solutions to issues facing our members, and with this legislation our principles do not change.”

The Cooperation Act outlines five essential rights for all employees, including the right to form and join a union; have a contract; ensure the contract is enforced; bargain over wages, hours and terms of employment; and have a dispute mechanism. Under the bill, states that do not comply with these basic rights will have two years to do so. At that point, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, an agency with a proven track record of handling labor disputes, will have jurisdiction to ensure workers are provided these necessary rights.

Many IAFF members live in jurisdictions in which these rights currently exist but are one election away from having them seriously threatened. This legislation will act as a backstop for those whose rights could be taken away, while at the same time respecting state laws already on the books. Nothing in the Cooperation Act would supersede state laws that exceed the provisions of the bill. This legislation also gives fire fighters who work every day in jurisdictions that do not provide basic bargaining rights a much-needed standard for employer and employee cooperation.

The Cooperation Act will be featured at the IAFF’s annual Legislative Conference in March, when hundreds of IAFF leaders and members from across the country will travel to Washington, DC, and lobby in support of the Cooperation Act.

“After a long election and a transfer of power in the House of Representatives, we have an opportunity to make our case to new leadership while educating dozens of newly elected officials as to why this bill should become law,” says Schaitberger. “This new Congress gives us the chance to lay the groundwork for future success and to make real the rights we have been fighting for these past two decades.”