June 28, 2018

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Legislation to Strengthen Rights of Workers to Join Unions & Bargain Collectively

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored bicameral legislation to guarantee the right of public employees to organize, act concertedly, and bargain collectively in states that currently do not afford these basic protections.

“Unions are fundamental to protecting workers’ rights and making sure they have a voice,” said Cortez Masto. “In light of growing threats to workers’ rights, we must focus our efforts on strengthening the ability of workers to organize and empower them to seek better wages, benefits, health care and improved working conditions.” 

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act will ensure public sector employees across the country have the legal right to form and join a union and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Public employers are also required to recognize their employees’ union and to commit to any agreements in a written contract. The bill reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining as a way of promoting stable, cooperative relationships between public employees and their employers.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and the Service Employees International Union.

The legislation reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to encourage the practice of collective bargaining as a means of promoting stable, cooperative relationships between public employees and their employers. The bill provides public employees the right to organize, act concertedly, and bargain collectively in states that currently do not afford these basic rights. Authority is granted to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to determine whether a state, territory, or locality provides public employees with the following basic labor rights and responsibilities: 

  • The right to form, join, or assist a labor organization and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.
  • Public employers are required to recognize the employees’ labor organization (freely chosen by a majority of the employees voting), to bargain with the labor organization over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, and to commit any agreements to writing in a contract or memorandum of understanding;
  • Access to a dispute resolution mechanism such as fact-finding, mediation, arbitration, or comparable procedures and provide for the payroll deduction of labor organization fees to any duly-selected representative of employees pursuant to the terms of an authorization executed by employees.
  • Real enforcement of all rights, responsibilities, and protections provided by State law and enumerated in this section, and of any written contract or MOU between a labor organization and a public employer through a state administrative agency or in court.

The FLRA approach gives states wide flexibility to write and administer their own labor laws provided they meet this minimum standard.

  • The bill will not apply in States determined to meet and exceed this standard.
  • Public employers in States that continue to fail to guarantee these basic rights and responsibilities will be subject to federal minimum standards.
  • For states failing to meet the minimum standard, employer lockouts and strikes by law enforcement officers or emergency services employees are prohibited when emergency or public safety services are imperiled. 

 The text of the bill can be found HERE.

The Senate bill is led by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.),  Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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