The Public Safety Employer Employee Cooperation Act of 2018 has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) as S. 2845, marking a crucial next step in the IAFF’s continued commitment to provide basic collective bargaining rights for all members. The House version of the Cooperation Act, H.R. 4846, was reintroduced in January 2018 by Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and John Duncan (R-TN).
“Having legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress is important for the future success of the Cooperation Act ,and having Senator Baldwin as our champion helps in those efforts significantly,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Moving forward, we will continue gathering support from both sides of the political aisle to 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 the safety of the people they protect.”
While many of our members live in jurisdictions in which these rights currently exist, many others go to work every day without these necessary protections. For states and local jurisdictions that have granted the right to collectively bargain for employees, the Cooperation Act is written to respect this reality with a very basic set of rights without infringing on state laws already on the books.
S. 2845 mirrors the language of its House companion and 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 three 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.
Schaitberger says, “While it’s unlikely that the Cooperation Act will pass through Congress this year, we will use this time to educate new members of Congress about the bill and build support, setting the stage for a time, not too far into the future, when circumstances will change and we have the opportunity to pass this legislation. In the meantime, we will lay the groundwork to win this long overdue battle.”
The Cooperation Act was close to becoming law seven years ago when bills were introduced and co-sponsored in the House and Senate. The House of Representatives passed the bill with broad bipartisan support. But despite multiple promises from Senate leadership, the bill did not pass that chamber.
In subsequent years, due to political circumstances and congressional priorities, the fight for the Cooperation Act was on hold. The reintroduction of this bill marks a new chapter in our decades-long work to provide basic collective bargaining rights for professional fire fighters, EMS personnel and other public safety workers.