NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 26, 2007

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 980), passed by the House in July and now before the Senate, threatens to put millions of Americans at greater risk of fire-related loss, injury or death, says James Sherk, Bradley Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.


  • H.R. 980 requires every state and local government to collectively bargain with their public safety employees: policemen, firefighters and emergency medical personnel (many states already do this, but a minority does not).
  • The bill also requires states that already have collective bargaining to bargain over nearly every term and condition of employment.
  • Currently, many states exempt topics, such as using merit pay instead of seniority-based pay, from collective bargaining.

By requiring every local government to collectively bargain with its public safety employees, the bill would force many firefighters into the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a union that prohibits its members from belonging to volunteer fire departments, even as volunteers in their off-time, says Sherk.

Off-duty professional firefighters form the core of America's nearly 26,000 volunteer fire departments, says Sherk.  Forcing them into the IAFF would cause volunteer fire departments across America to shut down, threatening public safety and straining local budgets.  Rather than force local governments to collectively bargain with the IAFF, Congress should let them choose the policies that best serve their citizens.

Source: James Sherk, "Unionizing Public Safety Employees Threatens Volunteer Fire Departments and Public Safety," WebMemo No. 1631, Heritage Foundation, September 21, 2007.


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