Congressman Donald Norcross

Representing the 1st District of New Jersey
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Top Democrats Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Collective Bargaining Rights for Public-Sector Workers

Jun 26, 2019
News Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, alongside the Committee Chair Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and Representatives Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), introduced legislation to guarantee public-service workers in every state have the right to stand together and negotiate for fair wages and working conditions.

“Workers win when they join together and advocate to raise wages and improve their benefits, like health care and retirement,” said Congressman Norcross, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and a lifelong labor leader. “I know how important it is for workers to have a voice in the workplace because I lived it. I sat at the negotiating table fighting for working families for decades and I’m proud to introduce this legislation to ensure public-sector workers can exercise their rights at the bargaining table.”

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, H.R. 3463 guarantees public-sector employees across the country the legal right to organize and collectively bargain. The legislation also requires public employers to recognize their employees’ union and to commit to any agreements in a written contract. Additionally, H.R. 3463 gives the federal government the authority to intervene on behalf of public-service workers should states fail to meet these standards.

This bill is being introduced the week of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME in the which the Court’s conservatives ignored four decades of legal precedent to undermine the ability of teachers, first responders and other public-sector workers to negotiate for better pay and safer workplaces.

“Union workers receive higher pay, greater access to paid sick leave, and better medical and retirement benefits compared to non-union workers,” said Chairman Scott. “One year after the Supreme Court discarded four decades of precedent to dismantle the rights of public sector unions, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would guarantee that public service employees can negotiate for fair wages and working conditions. This bill recognizes that unions are critical to rebuilding America’s middle class.”

“Public service workers provide critical services to our communities but are often significantly underpaid. School teachers are a prime example of this. The wage stagnation they have experienced is among the worst of any profession and from 1996 to 2015, their weekly pay has dropped by $30. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would be an important step toward addressing this and other indefensible disparities by empowering public service workers and recognizing their right to collective bargaining,” said Chairwoman Wilson, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.  “As a former public-school teacher, I experienced firsthand the positive impact of union membership. Unions give workers a seat at the table when important decisions are being made on key issues like wages, work hours, and terms and conditions of employment. This representation has tangible impacts on the well-being of public service workers and their families and I urge all my colleagues to join me in support of this bill.”

“This legislation will help teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees who are vital to our American way of life,” said Congressman Cartwright. “As many of them struggle just to put food on the table, we must protect their ability to bargain collectively for fair pay and workplace protections. I’m proud to stand with unions and their members, who have historically ensured basic rights such as a minimum wage standard, eight-hour workdays, and employer-sponsored health insurance.”

“In 2017, Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature went after our working families and gutted the collective bargaining rights of our state employees. We’ve seen safety compromised, major staffing cuts, and burdensome recertification requirements rigged against working people. Hardworking Iowans need to know that their safety and their ability to provide for their families are never up for debate. They step up for their families and fellow Iowans every single day. I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to make sure that this never happens again,” said Congresswoman Finkenauer.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

To read the fact sheet on the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, click here.

To read the section by section for the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, click here.

To read the bill text the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, click here.


Contact: Ally Kehoe, Communications Director