Text of National Firefighter & EMS Collective Bargaining Bill Released

Congress has released the text of a bill introduced in the House and more recently in the Senate that would “provide collective bargaining rights for fire fighters and emergency medical services personnel employed by States or their political subdivisions.”

Titled “The Fire Fighters and EMS Employer-Employee Cooperation Act,” the bill was introduced in the House on April 15, 2021 as HR 2586 and in the Senate on June 22, 2021 as S2178. States that currently allow collective bargaining for fire and EMS personnel would be exempt from the Act, making it applicable only to those states that have not granted such collective bargaining rights.

The bill assigns responsibility for determining which states meet the requirements of the Act to a federal agency, the Federal Labor Relations Authority. This less-known agency (compared to the National Labor Relations Board) is described on its web site as: “an independent administrative federal agency created by Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, also known as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), 5 U.S.C. §§ 7101-7135.  The Statute allows certain non-postal federal employees to organize, to bargain collectively, and to participate through labor organizations of their choice in decisions affecting their working lives.”

If the FLRA determines that a state does not meet the requirements of the bill, the state would have roughly two years to either enact such legislation or be subject to the federal mandates contained in the Act. In such a case, the FLRA would serve in an analogous role to the NLRB, and federal courts would be authorized to hear cases involving alleged violations of the act.

The act would authorize collective bargaining for firefighters and EMS personnel, protect employees from retaliation by management for engaging in concerted activities, require bargaining in good faith, and prohibits strikes, slowdowns, sickouts and lockouts. As written the act does not mandate arbitration, but requires the adoption of some sort of an impasse resolution mechanism “such as fact-finding,  mediation, arbitration, or comparable procedures.”

Here is a copy of the bill.  It is a long way from being enacted, but it is something that those who might be impacted ought to be aware of.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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