Press Releases

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Senate and House Democrats in introducing 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.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act will 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.

“The Supreme Court’s decision on Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 guts the ability of public-sector employees in Delaware and around the country to organize and collectively bargain. It harms teachers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians – the very people who provide critical services to protect and care for us, teach our children, and support our economy,” said Senators Carper and Coons. “We joined our Democratic colleagues in introducing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act to protect the rights of Delaware’s public sector employees to form unions and negotiate fair wages and working conditions. We will continue working with our colleagues to advance legislation that represents a better deal for America’s workers.”

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.),  Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The House bill is cosponsored by Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Susan Bonamici (D-Ore.), Stephen Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jan Shakowsky (D-Ill.), Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

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.

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.  

Click here to download the full text of the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. Click here to download a fact sheet on the bill.