U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) and Matt Cartwright (PA-8) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) reintroduced the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which protects the right of public employees to join unions and engage in collective bargaining on behalf of middle-class workers.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME to overturn more than 40 years of legal precedent and strip public employee unions of their ability to collect fees for representation they are legally required to provide workers. Since Janus, many states have passed laws threatening workers’ rights and weakening unions.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would help to level the playing field for those essential workers by establishing a minimum standard of collective bargaining rights that states and localities must provide.

“Our public servants at every level of government are crucial to ensuring that the important functions of our nation are carried out each day,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Beyond being grateful for their dedication, Congress must guarantee the rights of these employees to organize and collectively bargain. I am proud to co-lead the bipartisan Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act which will do just that, expanding protections for those who work tirelessly for the benefit of my constituents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties and for communities across the country.”

“I will always fight to maintain collective bargaining rights for hard-working Americans, including my constituents in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where union rights are a time-honored tradition,” said Congressman Cartwright. “Strong public and private sector unions built the middle class in our country. With all of the progress workers of all stripes have made, now is not the time to turn back the clock on fair pay and workplace protections when struggling families need it the most.”

Organized labor is a main pillar of the strong American middle class. Research shows union members employed by a state government earn 17 percent more than their non-union counterparts, and union members employed by a local government earn 35 percent more than their non-union counterparts.

Unfortunately, many states outright prohibit their public-sector employees from engaging in collective bargaining to improve wages or working conditions.

Where states fail to provide basic collective bargaining rights for public sector employees, this bipartisan, bicameral legislation would empower the Federal Labor Relations Authority to protect the rights of state, territorial, and local government employees to:

  • Form, join, or assist unions, to bargain collectively, and to join together to engage in other activities to improve their working conditions;
  • Have their union recognized by their public employer through democratic procedures;
  • Have a procedure for resolving impasses in collective bargaining; and
  • Authorize the deduction of fees to support the union to the extent permitted by law.

This legislation is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU),  United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), United Steelworkers (USW), Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO (UWUA), United Automobile Workers (UAW), Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).

“We applaud Senator Hirono and Representatives Cartwright and Fitzpatrick for again introducing the bipartisan Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would finally give public service workers nationwide collective bargaining rights,” said American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders. “With a seat at the table, we can fight for fair pay, better benefits, and safer working conditions — all of which are critical for recruiting and retaining qualified people to work in public service. During a time when many public services face drastic staffing shortages and turnover, we must identify ways to strengthen this workforce. This crucial legislation will help do this and more.”

“The Teamsters are proud to endorse the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, guaranteeing all public sector workers the right to organize and join a union, and this bill establishes a standard that states must meet,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “These are the workers that make our cities and states run and we owe it to them to protect their right to organize and ensure they have a safe and dignified environment where they work.”

Read the bill here.