This bill — the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2019 — would guarantee public sector employees the legal right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and safer workplaces by superseding state laws restricting public sector unions. It would also require public employers to recognize their employees’ union and to commit to any agreements in a written contract. Finally, it would give the federal government the authority to intervene on public service workers’ behalf should states fail to meet the standards set forth in this bill. Additional specifics of this bill are outlined below.
This bill’s broad specifics are:
- This bill would set a minimum nationwide standard for collective bargaining rights that all states must provide to public sector workers (currently, 20 states don’t provide all state and local public sector workers the ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits).
- The nationwide standard would include a requirement that public employers recognize employees’ labor unions that are freely chosen by a majority of the employees voting and negotiate with the unions over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.
- The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which administers the Federal Service Labor-Management Statute covering federal employees’ collective bargaining rights, would be charged with determining states’ compliance with the minimum nationwide standard and issuing regulations establishing collective bargaining procedures for employers, labor organizations and public and supervisory employees in states that it determines don’t meet the minimum requirements.
- In states that fail to meet the minimum nationwide standard, the federal government would be authorized to intervene on public service workers’ behalf and ensure their rights to form a union and negotiate with their employers are protected.
The minimum nationwide standard that this bill would guarantee for public and supervisory employees of state, territorial and local governments comprises the following rights:
- To form, join, or assist a union, to bargain collectively, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid (including the filing of joint, class or collective legal claims) or protection.
- To have their union recognized by their public employer if the union is freely chosen by a majority of employees, to bargain with the employer through the union, and to commit their collective-bargaining agreement to writing.
- To be free from forced recertification elections of their already-recognized representative and decertification of their chosen representative within one year of an election or the expiration of a valid collective-bargaining agreement.
- To have a procedure for resolving impasses in collective bargaining culminating in binding arbitration.
- To authorize employers to deduct fees to the union from their payroll when employees consent to the extent permitted by law.
Under this bill, states would have broad flexibility to write and administer their own labor laws tailored to their workforces’ unique needs, as long as they met this bill’s minimum standards. This bill wouldn’t apply to states that provide public employees with collective bargaining rights that meet or exceed the minimum federal standard. It also wouldn’t override state laws prohibiting strikes by police and emergency personnel.