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Reps. Kildee, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Labor Rights for Public Safety Officers

February 12, 2019
Press Release

Legislation Allows Police Officers, Firefighters and EMS Personnel to Create Labor Unions, Collectively Bargain

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that all state and city firefighters, police and EMS personnel can exercise their labor rights. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act would provide these public safety officers the right to form a labor union and collectively bargain with their employer on wages and hours.

Currently, 20 states do not provide all state and local public safety employees the ability to collectively bargain for fair wages and hours, while seven of those states prevent them from even forming a labor union. Under this legislation, which sets a federal floor on labor rights for public safety employees, the Federal Labor Relations Authority would have three months to determine which states do not provide the baseline rights. This includes providing public safety officers the ability to form and join a labor union, collectively bargain regarding hours, wages and terms and conditions of employment. States would then have two years to comply.

“As we celebrate White Shirt Day this week—the day we remember Flint’s brave men and women who laid the foundation of the modern labor movement—I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Representative Fitzpatrick. America’s firefighters, police and emergency personnel should have the right to form a union and fight for fair wages and safe working conditions. These men and women serve our communities every day, regardless of personal risk, and deserve the ability to collectively bargain. All labor unions are critical to growing America’s middle class, and this is an area where we have fallen short as a country in providing equal rights for our public safety officers,” said Congressman Kildee.

“Our police officer, firefighters, and EMS personnel stepped up to serve their community and when we need help, they answer our call. They have earned the right to form a union and collectively bargain for fair hours and wages. I’m proud to stand with our first responders and Representative Kildee to introduce this important legislation,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick.

"Federal law has extended collective bargaining to several different sectors, but not to public safety officers. There are many law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to preserve the security and peace that our nation enjoys. However, these same officers are denied the basic American rights of collective bargaining for wages, hours, and safe working conditions. We strongly believe that the public safety is best protected through effective partnerships between first responders on the front lines and the agencies that employ them. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act will ensure that public safety officers can meet with local officials to discuss how they do their jobs and how best to protect the public. We thank Congressman Kildee and Congressman Fitzpatrick for championing this important issue,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

“The IAFF is proud to see Congressman Kildee re-introduce the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, a bill that will give basic collective bargaining rights to fire fighters and other public safety workers who do not have a say in their own personal safety or that of the people they protect. Congressman Kildee has a long history of fighting for and standing with working Americans. His decision to take the lead on behalf of fire fighters provides a needed voice for the hard-working men and women who dedicate their careers to keeping their communities safe. We look forward to working alongside the Congressman and our other allies to help move this important legislation forward,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“Bangor Township Michigan Fire Fighters IAFF Local #1682 is pleased to see bipartisan cooperation in trying to allow and even strengthen unionizing and bargaining rights for fire fighters around the country. It is these rights that allow us the ability to try and establish fair wages, as well as safe up to date working environments and equipment," said Michael Sarnowski, President of the Bangor Township Michigan Fire Fighters IAFF Local #1682. "By strengthening those bargaining rights we are better equipped to protect those who protect the citizens and public in our districts.  Without our bargaining rights Fire Fighters will be put in jeopardy of working even longer hours than they do now (many 24 hrs. a shift) in more hazardous conditions, with less safety equipment or pay to provide for themselves or families. Thank you Congressmen Kildee, and Fitzpatrick for your help to try and protect those who protect you.”