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Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007--Continued --

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FARM, NUTRITION, AND BIOENERGY ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - December 13, 2007)


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I will not object, but I want to, first of all, thank our majority leader for his comments. Just before the request is agreed to, I want to remind the Members of the Senate that private workers have the opportunity under the labor laws to get the kinds of protections and rights we are talking about; public workers do not. The public workers, who have been on the front lines of so many of the challenges we are facing in our society, deserve these rights.

Public safety workers put their lives on the line every day they go to work. They are on the frontlines of our effort to keep America safe.

We ask much from them. When the California wildfires threatened lives and property, we asked that they battle those blazes. When natural disasters strike, we expect them to be the first on the scene. And on September 11th, they were the heroes that restored our hope.

These heroic men and women have earned our thanks and respect. All they asked of this body was the right to enjoy the same basic rights that private sector workers enjoy. The right to have a voice at the table when decisions are made that are critical to their safety and their livelihood.

The bipartisan amendment that we offered would have guaranteed every first responder the right to collective bargaining. Many of our first responders already have this fundamental right. This amendment would have provided these basic rights for those who don't and it would have done so in a reasonable manner. For States that currently accord public safety officers these rights, the amendment would have no affect. For States that don't currently provide these rights, the amendment would not trample on their rights. They would have ample opportunity to establish their own collective bargaining systems, or ask the Federal Labor Relations Authority for help. The choice would belong to the state.

The public safety officers came to us with a modest request. Tonight, a minority of the Senate said no to their request. Despite the broad bipartisan support we had for this amendment, we could not get past the obstructions of those who were determined to deny our Nation's first responders their basic rights.

This fight is not over. I pledge to our Nation's brave firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians, that we will bring this legislation back to the Senate again and again until the Senate says ``yes'' to them. Each day they face hazards that put their lives at risk, and as we enjoy the security that their sacrifice provides, they should know that they have allies in the Senate that will keep fighting for them.

While we may not have succeeded today, we will bring this legislation back to the floor of the U.S. Senate soon and we will pass it.

Our public safety officers deserve no less.

I thank the leader for all of his strong support for this legislation, and I indicate that I, for one--and there are many others--will come back and revisit this issue at an early time. So I don't object to the request, but I do want to state that this issue is going to be front and center before the Senate in the near future.


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