Collective Bargaining for Public Safety Employees

The right to bargain collectively over hours, wages, and working conditions is enjoyed by virtually all employees in the United States. Yet this basic right is still denied to law enforcement officers and other public safety employees across the country. The FOP strongly supports H.R. 1154/S. 1394, the "Public Safety Officers' Employer-Employee Cooperation Act," which would finally recognize the right of these employees to bargain collectively for improved working conditions while fostering a better relationship with their employers.

Under this bill the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) would be directed to determine whether State law provides public safety officers with the right to form and join a union and bargain collectively with public safety employers over hours, wages, and conditions of employment. If State law does not "substantially provide" this and the other minimal requirements spelled out in the bill within two years or "the date of the end of the first regular session of the legislature of that State that begins after the date of the enactment of this Act," then the FLRA would be empowered to govern the labor-management relationship.

The objective here is not to have the Federal government involved in regulating labor-management relationships, but to spur the development and enactment of good labor laws which will improve the safety of all public safety officers and the delivery of emergency services to our citizens in a safer, more cost effective way.

Under the legislation, the FLRA would review existing State law and determine if that law would "substantially provide" for the following rights and responsibilities:

  • the right to form and join a labor organization that serves as, or seeks to serve as, the exclusive bargaining representative for non-management and non-supervisory public safety employees;
  • a requirement that the public safety employer recognize the employees' labor organization, agree to bargaining;
  • the right to bargain over hours, wages, and the terms and conditions of employment;
  • the availability of an "interest impasse resolution mechanism such as fact-finding, mediation, arbitration, or comparable procedures"; and
  • a requirement of enforcement through State courts of "all rights, responsibilities, and protections provided by State law," including any written contract or memorandum of understanding.

In making this determination, the FLRA is required to consider the opinions of the affected employers, employees, and labor organizations. If an employer and an affected labor organization jointly agree that the current State law does "substantially provide" for these rights and responsibilities, the FLRA will give this agreement "weight to the maximum extent practicable" in making its determination.

If the FLRA determines that a State does not "substantially provide" for the rights and responsibilities enumerated above, than a State has two years (from the date of the law's enactment) or "date of the end of the first regular session of the legislature of that State that begins after the date of the enactment of this Act" or the FLRA will issue regulations which will provide for the aforementioned rights and responsibilities. These regulations will enable the FLRA to:

  • determine the appropriateness of units for labor organization representation;
  • supervise and conduct elections to determine whether a labor organization has been selected as an exclusive representative by a voting majority of the employees in an appropriate unit;
  • resolve issues relating to the duty to bargain in good faith;
  • conduct hearings and resolve complaints of unfair labor practices;
  • resolve exceptions to the awards of arbitrators;
  • protect the right of each employee to form, join, or assist any labor organization, or to refrain from any such activity, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and protect each employee in the exercise of such right;
  • direct compliance by such State by order if the FLRA finds that the State is not in compliance with the regulations it issued; and
  • take other actions as are necessary and appropriate to effectively administer the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act.

The bill specifically prohibits strikes and lockouts.

The bill would not preempt any law of any State or political subdivision of any State or jurisdiction that substantially provides greater or comparable rights and responsibilities as described in above, or prevent a State from enforcing a State law which prohibits employers and labor organizations from negotiating provisions in a labor agreement that require union membership or payment of union fees as a condition of employment (i.e. "right-to-work").

The bill would also not preempt any State law in effect on the date of enactment that substantially provides for the rights and responsibilities described above solely because:

  • such State law permits an employee to appear in his or her own behalf with respect to his or her employment relations with the public safety agency involved;
  • such State law excludes from its coverage employees of a state militia or national guard;
  • such State law does not require bargaining with respect to pension and retirement benefits;
  • such rights and responsibilities have not been extended to other categories of employees covered by this legislation, in which case the FLRA shall only exercise the authority granted it by this bill with respect to those categories of employees who have not been afforded the aforementioned rights and responsibilities;
  • such laws or ordinances provide that a contract or memorandum of understanding between a public safety employer and a labor organization must be presented to a legislative body as part of the process for approving such contract or memorandum of understanding.

The bill would not permit parties subject to the National Labor Relations Act to negotiate provisions that would prohibit an employee from engaging in part time employment or volunteer activities during off duty hours or require a State to rescind or preempt laws or ordinances of any of its political subdivisions if such laws substantially provide rights and responsibilities for public safety officers that are comparable to or greater than the rights and responsibilities enumerated above.

A State may exempt from its State law, or from the requirements established by this bill, a political subdivision of the State that has a population of less than 5,000 or that employs fewer than 25 full time employees.

The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports H.R. 1154/S. 1394, the "Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act"

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the "Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2011"
More Information About This Issue

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report: The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (Updated 9 December 2010)

House Report 110-232 - The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act - The report of the Committee on Education and Labor to the U.S. House of Representatives (13 July 2007)

Government Accounting Office (GAO) Report: Collective Bargaining Rights: Information on the Number of Workers with and without Collective Bargaining Rights (September 2002)


March 10, 2010
H.R. 413, the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act"
Testimony of Chuck Canterbury, National President, before the Subcommittee on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions House Committee on Education and Labor.

July 25, 2000
Collective Bargaining
Testimony of Gilbert G. Gallegos, Then National President, on S. 1016, the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act," before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

May 9, 2000
Collective Bargaining for Public Safety Officers
Testimony of Gilbert G. Gallegos, Then National President, on H.R. 1093, "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act" before the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations.

For more information or elaboration, please do not hesitate to contact the National FOP Legislative Office at (202) 547-8189 or via e-mail.