By JESSE J. HOLLAND
AP Labor Writer
The Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would give police officers, firefighters and other first responders the right to unionize but take away their ability to go on strike.
The 69-29 procedural vote proved the measure would survive any possible filibuster attempt. The Senate will vote to send the legislation to President Bush later this week.
The bill would guarantee public safety officers the right to join unions and bargain over wages, hours and conditions of employment. It also would ban them from going on strike.
Two states, Virginia and North Carolina, prohibit public safety officers from collective bargaining. At least 20 other states don't fully protect collective bargaining rights for firefighters, police officers, corrections officers and emergency medical service workers, supporters said.
States could exempt towns with fewer than 5,000 people or fewer than 25 full time employees.
"Fairness means fire fighters and police officers having a voice at the table in life-and-death discussions about their work," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. "They know best how to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and safely. Everyone benefits when they're given the chance to share that knowledge at the bargaining table."
Republicans called the bill payback for union help in elections.
"While American families are facing an uncertain economy, Democrats are shamefully pushing another job-killing bill to help line the pockets of organized labor," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "Let's be honest: This bill is a political payoff to big labor bosses, whose political support is needed to keep Democrats in charge of Congress."
Democratic Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, interrupting their presidential campaigns, voted to begin debate on the bill. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, was not present.
The bill "makes sure those on the front lines, who make snap decisions in saving lives every day, have a voice in protecting themselves and their communities," said Harold A. Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Three of Bush's Cabinet secretaries, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff say they will recommend that Bush veto the bill.
"It represents an unprecendented federal intrusion into state and local decision making, potentially disrupts our nation's carefully developed emergency response functions and raises serious constitutional questions under the Tenth Amendment," they said in a letter to Senate leaders.
The White House said Tuesday that it opposed the bill.
"The administration strongly opposes this Act because its severe intrusions on state sovereignty and emergency management conflict with the fundamental principles of federalism," an administration statement said. "If H.R. 980 were presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."
But Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said President Bush has assured the FOP that he will sign the bill. "On three separate occasions, the president has personally assured us he would sign this bill if it reached his desk. I will ask him to reject the advice of his advisers and sign the bill," he said.
The bill passed the House in July on a 314-97 vote, which along with the Senate vote, would be enough to override a presidential veto.
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05-13-2008, 06:43 PM #1
FINALLY. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
05-13-2008, 10:16 PM #2
So for someone living in virginia what does this bill mean in plain english. Correct me if I am wrong but my interpretation is that even though Virginia is a right to work state the union could actually have more power to bargain for better wages, health care, etc.
05-13-2008, 10:37 PM #3
Here's one link to H.R. 980.
Here's the Senate version S2123
Here's the gov. tracker site on the bill
05-13-2008, 10:44 PM #4
Wow as a new career firefighter looking at joining the union shortly this is really good news if it passes.
05-13-2008, 11:43 PM #5
Yes it is. What today's vote did was invoke cloture on the bill, which limits it to only 30 additional hours of debate before it is decided, preventing a filibuster. This should be an interesting week.
05-14-2008, 02:34 PM #6
- Join Date
- Mar 2007
I was watching C-SPAN this morning. To my dismay, the Republicans have filibustered yet again. There is true bipartisan support for this bill. However, a few Senators continue to play partisan politics.
To see how your Senator voted, please check this link:
Please contact your Senators and tell them to support this bill.
05-14-2008, 05:38 PM #7
Here's the definition of it http://www.senate.gov/reference/glos...rm/cloture.htm
05-17-2008, 10:32 AM #8
Well, they removed cloture on the bill. Still keeping fingers crossed. Politics.
Collective Bargaining Bill Delayed By Partisanship
May 16, 2008 – After an historic 69-29 cloture vote to bring the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 980/S.2123) on the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate, presidential politics, partisanship and the Senate's arcane procedural rules combined to temporarily stall progress on the bill that would give every fire fighter the right to collectively bargain.
Immediately before voting on several GOP-sponsored amendments to the bill, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attempted to attach Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) GI Bill of Rights Bill to S.2123, a move designed both to sidetrack debate on the bill and boost the candidacy of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
However, most Democrats and many Republicans favor a competing GI Bill of Rights sponsored by Virginia Senators Jim Webb (D) and John Warner (R) that is far more generous to veterans and their families than McCain's bill. After rancorous debate, the Graham amendment was defeated 55-42.
The Graham-McCain amendment served notice that anti-labor Republicans planned to use all tactics at their disposal to block consideration of the legislation, including bringing the Senate to a complete standstill. Undoubtedly, many hard core opponents will employ slash-and-burn strategies to sabotage the bill and spread their message on a variety of non-related issues, including immigration, gun rights, abortion, paycheck protection and other divisive topics. Their efforts are bolstered by President Bush and his minions through a veto threat and letters denouncing the bill.
With the Senate scheduled to take up the emergency supplemental appropriation to support our troops fighting abroad, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was compelled to temporarily suspend debate and action on the collective bargaining bill. Before setting aside the IAFF’s legislation, he made a public plea to Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), who was managing the bill on the Republican side of the aisle, to reach an agreement on a reasonable list of amendments that could be considered. The bill’s Democratic manager, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also took to the Senate floor to express their support for reaching an agreement that would allow the Senate to move forward.
After speaking with both Senators Reid and Kennedy this morning, President Schaitberger reports that both remain fully committed to passing this legislation this year.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has provided incredible and unprecedented support for our national collective bargaining bill,” says Schaitberger. “He has done more as a leader for our members than any Majority Leader in my 32 years in Washington. His commitment and follow-up has been extraordinary. No matter what ultimately occurs, we owe Senator Reid an enormous debt of gratitude, along with Senator Kennedy, who has been the vanguard of this effort for years and continues to be our biggest proponent.”
The IAFF is hopeful that an agreement can be reached to consider the legislation in the coming weeks. The bill’s two principal sponsors, Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Kennedy, are working to ensure that a successful outcome is reached. However, if negotiations fail, the IAFF will be forced to seek another cloture vote.
“Our nation’s fire fighters and other first responders protect our families, our communities and our nation,” says Senator Kennedy. “They deserve this basic legislation, and we owe it to them to get this bill signed into law. The IAFF has worked tirelessly for years to make it happen. We’re close to the finish line at long last, and we won’t stop until we get the job done.”
In 1994, delegates at the IAFF Convention made passing a national collective bargaining law the union’s top legislative priority.
“We will not rest until this legislation is passed and every fire fighter has collective bargaining," says Schaitberger.
The IAFF will continue to provide updates on S.2123 as they are known.
05-19-2008, 11:48 AM #9
- Join Date
- May 1999
- Here, There, Everywhere
Even with the current set backs...I would say the chances of this bill passing are still very positive. Veto or not.
I've already sent letters to my Senators (both whom will most assuredly vote in favor of said bill.) Even though I already have the right to join a union that can represent me in negoitiations.
I hope those who will benefit most from this bill are calling their legislators daily and reminding them how important this bill is for your families.
06-03-2008, 12:13 PM #10
I have wrote letters and made a call to one Senator that was "on the fence"
This bill does not affect me, but I know the rights that I am entitled to SHOULD be entitled to every career firefighter in the country. The brothers that can't collectively bargain work just as hard as those that can. Keep making those calls and writing the letters. I know we all know how important this is so regardless if you can bargain now or not, get the word out for support of this bill.Local 216
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