Union leaders are pulling for a new bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions. 

Introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would make it mandatory for public-sector employers to meet certain requirements when it comes to collective bargaining. It also lets state governments write and enforce their own labors laws, but they must meet federal guidelines.

The bill currently has over 120 co-sponsors.

Union leaders have come out in support of the proposed legislation.

“Our communities are safer, healthier and stronger when public service workers––people like our nurses, paramedics, 911 operators, teachers and sanitation workers––have the freedom to join a union and speak up together for their communities,’’ stated AFSCME President Lee Saunders, who urged Congress to pass the legislation. “Throughout the pandemic, public service workers have been on the front lines, risking their health and safety to protect their neighbors. For all their service and sacrifice, they deserve the freedom to form a union and negotiate for pay and working conditions without interference, if a majority of employees chooses to do so.”

First introduced in 2018, Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act sets a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights all states must provide and abide by. Something that only half the country (25 states) has. The bill was in response to Supreme Court case Janus vs. AFSCME where the court ruled that public-sector workers don’t have to pay union dues to cover collective bargaining costs. It didn’t make it past the House, which was then controlled by conservatives.  Now, Cartwright and union leaders see an opening.

“Public workers have educated our students, treated our patients and kept our communities strong and safe during the COVID crisis,” stated American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “But in many states, they are still denied the basic freedom to have a real say over the work they do, their wages and other conditions of employment. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act ensures minimum standards are in place across the nation to help those on the front lines achieve what would be impossible alone—better and more-efficient public services, dignity and voice at work, and fair compensation and benefits.”

National Education Association President Becky Pringle looks at this legislation as a way to tackle the precarious position she feels educators find themselves in and will result in a better learning environment for American children.

“Educators use their collective voice to advocate for stronger public schools to help ensure their students’ social, emotional, and academic learning needs are addressed,” said. “But across the nation, some politicians are attacking educators and their unions to distract from the fact that those same politicians have failed to ensure our public schools have the resources needed to help educators keep students safe, focused and inspired. 

“That is why Congress must pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act to help level the playing field for working families and empower educators to better advocate for their students.”

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