House reintroduces public safety collective bargaining bill 

May 19 • 2023

Thousands of fire fighters and emergency medical workers in the United States would benefit from the reintroduced bipartisan Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which would allow public safety workers to form a union, collectively bargain for fair hours and wages, and provide mechanisms for resolution during negotiation impasses. 

“Today, tens of thousands of fire fighters and EMS personnel nationwide lack a collective voice with their employer to advocate for themselves, their families, and the communities they took an oath to protect,” said General President Edward Kelly. “This is a right that every worker deserves. When fire fighters are at the table, we use our voice to speak out for health and safety improvements that save lives.” 

If passed, the bill would give fire fighters and EMS personnel basic collective bargaining rights nationwide; currently, 18 states do not allow fire fighters the right to bargain. The legislation gives states broad flexibility to write and administer their own laws, consistent with these minimum standards: 

    • The right to form and join a labor organization and to have that organization be recognized through the formation and agreement of a contract. 
    • The right to bargain over working conditions, hours, and wages. 
    • The ability to resolve disputes through an impasse resolution mechanism, and if an agreement is reached, the right to enforce it in court or through an administrative agency.  

The legislation does not allow strikes or lockouts, does not infringe on 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 reintroduced the bill this week. 

 “As a former police officer who started a union in Duluth, Minn., I know how vital labor rights are for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service to our communities,” said Stauber. “These past couple of years have been especially difficult for our public safety officers, so it’s more important than ever before to ensure they have a voice in the workplace.” 

“All workers, including police officers, fire fighters, and EMS workers, should be able to join a union and bargain for better wages and safer working conditions,” said Kildee. “I am proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to expand collective bargaining rights for public safety officers.” 

Other cosponsors of the bill include Don Bacon (R-NE), Mike Bost (R-IL), Angie Craig (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Tom Kean (R-NJ), Susie Lee (D-NV), 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, and we urge Congress to pass this common sense, bipartisan legislation and protect the basic labor rights of American workers,” said Kelly. “If you are willing to risk your life for others, you deserve a seat at the negotiating table.”