Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate & House Democrats to Introduce New Legislation to Strengthen Rights of Workers to Join Unions & Bargain Collectively

June 29, 2018

Legislation Would Establish Clear Right for Public Sector Workers to Unionize, Act Concertedly and Bargain Collectively Throughout the Country

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senate and House Democrats yesterday to introduce the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, bicameral legislation to guarantee the right for public employees to organize, act concertedly and bargain collectively in states that currently do not afford these basic protections. Senate and House Democrats introduced the legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which will weaken unions’ ability to advocate for public workers. The legislation was led by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), as well as Senate and House Democratic Leadership.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would 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.

“Organized labor is a pillar of the New Hampshire economy,” said Shaheen. “The Supreme Court’s decision weakens the influence of unions, and with that, the voices of working men and women, which is deeply concerning. This ruling threatens the ability for unions to organize and advocate for public workers, which is why this bicameral legislation is so critically important. I’m glad to see a strong push from both chambers of Congress to take action, and I’ll continue working to protect the rights of our public employees.”

“Protecting workers’ right to collectively bargain and fight for good wages and benefits is critical to expanding middle class opportunity and to the strength of our economy,” said Hassan. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s anti-worker decision in Janus v. AFSCME weakens that right and undermines efforts to ensure that all workers have the opportunity to share in our economic growth. I am proud to support this bill and join my colleagues in the fight to protect public workers’ right to collectively bargain and to ensure that all hard-working Granite Staters and Americans can get ahead and stay ahead.”

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.

“This bill is a legitimate antidote to an illegitimate Supreme Court decision that was bought and paid for by billionaires and driven solely by animus against labor unions,” said Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO. “It would strengthen collective bargaining, putting the law on our side and additional wind at our back. If the folks in the majority up here on Capitol Hill are serious about empowering working people, they will bring this bill to the floor as quickly as they can.”

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.