Because today, Senate Majority Leader offered the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act that is being considered by the Senate. The amendment (number 4147) could be voted on as early as tomorrow.
Here is the Heritage Foundation’ summary of the bill:
The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (PSEEC) would require all state and local governments to collectively bargain with public safety employees’–police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel–by creating a federalized collective bargaining system for public safety officers.
PSEEC allows the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to determine whether a state’s collective bargaining arrangements meet the standards as defined by the act.
- States and localities must collectively bargain with public safety employees.
- They must permit bargaining over wages, hours, and all terms and conditions of employment.
- They must provide a dispute resolution mechanism, such as binding arbitration.
- The FLRA will have considerable authority to enforce the act, including:
- Determining the appropriateness of units for labor organization representation;
- Conducting hearings and resolving complaints of unfair labor practices; and
- Supervising or conducting elections to determine whether a labor organization has been selected as an exclusive representative by a voting majority of the employees.
- States would be granted the authority to pass laws more expansive than those the federal government imposed.
- States would not, however, be allowed to pass narrower laws than those contained in the act.
For more on the reasons why the Heritage Foundation thinks this is a bad idea, go here.
A more supportive view, not surprisingly, comes from the International Association of Fire Fighters, an AFL-CIO affiliate.
My quick review of the bill did not indicate that size of the governmental entity makes any difference. Here is the key definition for coverage:
“The terms `employer’ and `public safety agency’ mean any State, or political subdivision of a State, that employs public safety officers.”
In Texas, many of the major cities already have the obligation to bargain (often not very successfully) with their police, fire and emergency medical personnel, although they will still have to be certified as meeting the national standards.
Many other Texas cities do not. But if this passes the current Texas procedure (which is in itself several complicated pieces of legislation) will be set aside if the Federal Labor Relations Authority does not deem them equal to the new federal standard. In tough economic times, not a financial burden that many governments are going to be excited about taking on.
For those not too concerned about Public Sector labor relations, the legislative tactic might be a precursor to see how other labor and employment legislation may be moved through this Congress. By attaching the bills to “must pass” legislation, such as an appropriations bill, we may soon see just how filibuster proof this Congress is when it comes to employment and labor matters.
Update May 25, 2010: Labor Relations Today covers the same topic and closes with the following:
On March 10, 2010, the House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on the bill, transcripts of which are available here. Seeing as there were at least five GOP co-sponsors to Sen. Gregg’s similar bill, it is highly likely that this amendment will pass and become part of the Supplemental.
Update May 29, 2010: Senator Reid pulled the PSEEC from the Supplemental Appropriations bill in light of a parliamentary challenge that it was non-germane. The Supplemental passed without it, although the bill itself remains pending in both houses. Thanks for Labor Relations Today for the update.