Update, Part Deux: Sources have contacted me to correct my update. The Act hasn’t officially passed the Senate yet. The final vote will be later this week. The first vote was a procedural motion that appears to be a strong indicator of a final vote. Anyway, there is hope for this bad legislation to die yet.
Update: Just as I was publishing this post, it looks like the Act has passed the Senate, with a lot of so-called Republicans also enabling the legislation. So goes the world…
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats in Congress haven’t accomplished much since they took over. Most notably, Nancy Pelosi’s 2006 “plan” to bring down gas prices is still in the works.
One special interest group to which Democrats have been busy pandering is Big Labor. They keep trying to take away workers’ rights to a secret ballot (aka the “Employee Free Choice Act”) as a means of growing private-sector union membership.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Washington have been trying to coerce the growth of union clout in the public sector, too. The issue at hand is the Public Safety Employee-Employer Cooperation Act of 2007 (S. 2123), which has made its reappearance in the Senate, having initially stalled there after passing the House:
Under current law, every state has the ability to set policies that govern its public workforce. In some states, police, firefighters and paramedics belong to unions that collectively bargain for their contracts. In others, unions representing public-security workers can bargain over pay, but not over benefits or work rules. And in some others, these workers can choose not to belong to a union.
Democrats want to change this for the entire country. A bill that passed the House last year would make the top officials at local unions the exclusive bargaining agents for public safety officers in every town or city with more than 5,000 people. They would also have the authority to bargain for everything — pay, benefits and work rules. The goal is to give labor the whip hand with local governments, and further coerce nonunion members to join the dues-paying ranks.
A top-down dictum to small local governments to mandate union recognition for police, fire, and other public safety workers? It’s a lot more efficient for Big Labor leaders to push the change at the federal level than to wade through the various laws of different states that have different prevailing views about public-sector labor relations. And Congressional Democrats are enabling them, without any compelling reason in the public interest and, in fact, many potential harms to the public interest.
If you want more information, the Alliance for Worker Freedom has a ton of resources on the issue. There’s also a great brief written by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation.
Last year, when this issue was first hot, I interviewed Weld County Sheriff John Cooke for an iVoices podcast to discuss the potential local impact of the federal legislation.