U.S. House to force local collective bargaining
Vol 14, Issue 43 July 9, 2010
Congressional Democrats passed July 1 an emergency war appropriations bill (HR 4899) that contains language requiring collective bargaining for state and local law enforcement.
The provision in HR 4899 would set up a federal collective bargaining mechanism for states that do not currently have it. It expressly requires all local police, fire, and ambulance services whose employees vote in collective bargaining to get a contract from the local governing authority. The bill creates a new federal bureaucracy to referee local collective bargaining. If the local elected body does not agree on a contract, the provision requires some alternative arbitration mechanism to impose a contract on the local or state government.
“If this doesn’t violate the 10th Amendment, I don’t know what does,” said Frank Sturzl, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, referring to the amendment guaranteeing to states and the people rights not expressly assigned to the federal government.
For the most part, Texas does not have collective bargaining. A few large cities, however, have collective bargaining, either due to the approval of local voters or due to legislation authorizing it.
Sturzl estimated the statute would apply to about 300 cities in Texas. The bill has a provision that allows states to exempt cities of under 5,000 from collective bargaining. He estimated that about 40 Texas cities have authorized it. However, the federal law – if enacted by the U.S. Senate – would impose collective bargaining even on cities where the voters have rejected it.
In localities that have collective bargaining, the federal government could override local laws if they don’t provide for a brand of collective bargaining sufficiently beneficial to unions.
The bill also applies to Texas state government. That means troopers in the Texas Department of Public Safety could unionize, and the state would have to bargain collectively with that union.
The bill prohibits strikes and does not technically void Texas’s Right to Work statute, which protects workers who don’t want to join unions from having to pay union dues.
“It’s a very costly deal and it would be very widespread,” said Sturzl of the mandated collective bargaining provisions.
HR 4899 passed the U.S. House of Representatives with the collective bargaining language attached. It now goes to the federal Senate, which must decide whether to agree or send the matter to conference. Because it is attached to a war funding bill, it is uncertain whether the Senate will concur or try to strip the language.
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