Press Release

Union leaders applaud introduction of landmark legislation to make it easier for public service workers to join unions

A majority of Americans – nearly 80% including Republicans and Independents – support the freedom of public service workers to choose to form and join a union without interference from employers

For Release: 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Contact:

Alexis Lopez
305-878-9836
alopez@aft.org
Natalia Pérez Santos
nperezsantos@afscme.org
Eric Jotkoff
617-784-1877
ejotkoff@nea.org
Terry Lee
media@seiu.org

WASHINGTON—Introduced today by Rep. Matt Cartwright, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act seeks to empower public service workers with the freedom to join a union and collectively negotiate for fair compensation, safer job conditions and better public services for the communities they serve. First introduced in 2019, this legislation would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide – a right they are currently denied in 25 states.

Recent polling from ALG Research also shows that the vast majority of Americans agrees that the essential public service workers who jumped into action to keep our communities safe and healthy through the COVID crisis deserve respect.

In response, AFSCME, AFT, NEA and SEIU released the following statements:

“Our communities are safer, healthier and stronger when public service workers – people like our nurses, paramedics, 911 operators, teachers and sanitation workers – have the freedom to join a union and speak up together for their communities,'' said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “Throughout the pandemic, public service workers have been on the front lines, risking their health and safety to protect their neighbors. For all their service and sacrifice, they deserve the freedom to form a union and negotiate for pay and working conditions without interference, if a majority of employees chooses to do so. We urge members of Congress to support this important legislation, which would finally give public service workers – no matter what state they live in – a voice on the job and a seat at the table, the respect they deserve for the essential work they do.”

“Every day, America’s educators go above and beyond to help all students – Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike – thrive. Educators use their collective voice to advocate for stronger public schools to help ensure their students’ social, emotional, and academic learning needs are addressed,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle. “But across the nation, some politicians are attacking educators and their unions to distract from the fact that those same politicians have failed to ensure our public schools have the resources needed to help educators keep students safe, focused and inspired. That is why Congress must pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act to help level the playing field for working families and empower educators to better advocate for their students.”

“Public workers have educated our students, treated our patients and kept our communities strong and safe during the COVID crisis,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “But in many states, they are still denied the basic freedom to have a real say over the work they do, their wages and other conditions of employment. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act ensures minimum standards are in place across the nation to help those on the front lines achieve what would be impossible alone — better and more-efficient public services, dignity and voice at work, and fair compensation and benefits. We are honored to support it and will fight for its passage.”

“Passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act is another way federal lawmakers can respect the contributions public workers make to our country each day. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven just how essential nurses, education staff, unemployment processors and other public service workers are to our country. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act will help ensure that our unsung heroes have a stronger voice in their workplaces and communities during our nation’s recovery process,” said Service Employees International Union International President Mary Kay Henry. “By setting a nationwide standard for collective bargaining rights, we can ensure more workers will be protected against anti-worker forces and the greedy corporations that back them. Every person – no matter where they live in our country or what they do for a living – should be able to come together and organize for good wages, workplace safety standards and respect on the job.”

Additional information about the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act can be found here.

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AFSCME's 1.4 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in communities across the nation, serving in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and freedom and opportunity for all working families.

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, health care workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and health care workers; and early childhood educators.

 

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the health care industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits, and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.