Congressional Democrats want to give all government employees the right to unionize.
House and Senate Democrats plan to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would give public-sector employees collective bargaining rights for the first time under federal law, according to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, which is pushing for the change. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) will introduce the bill, called the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
Unlike employees who work for private businesses, the nation’s 21 million government employees have no collective bargaining rights under federal law. Millions live in states that do let them organize — and millions don’t. The new bill would require all states to let government employees organize and negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.
If passed (a big if), the bill would represent a major shift in US labor laws, essentially making the right to organize a fundamental right for all US workers.
The bill is a direct response to last June’s US Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which banned unions from collecting fees from teachers, firefighters, police, and other government employees they represent, unless those workers are card-carrying union members. That means workers who pay dues are unfairly subsidizing union benefits for their coworkers who choose to pay nothing, which strains a union’s finances.
It also comes at a time when Republican leaders, big businesses, and the courts have doubled down on their attempts to weaken the influence of labor unions and the workers they represent.