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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am here today to speak in support of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007, for which I am a proud cosponsor. While the vast majority of private and public employees enjoy the right to bargain collectively, thousands of our public safety employees across the country are denied this basic American right. If enacted, this bill would provide our public safety workers with the right to negotiate for the level of pay and benefits they deserve.
Every day, we rely on the service of these men and women, who risk their lives to provide safety and protection to our communities. Yet many States and local governments deny these workers the right to organize. It is not fair, and it should not be tolerated.
Those who oppose providing public safety employees these fundamental rights claim that the legislation will interfere with existing State and local laws that govern collective bargaining. This is simply false. The legislation ensures that existing collective bargaining units and agreements that have already been issued, approved, or ratified at the State or local level would be maintained. Additionally, this legislation prohibits strikes and work slowdowns by public safety officers and labor unions, as well as lockouts by public safety employers, ensuring that the safety of the public will not be compromised as a result of a work stoppage.
This legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support. Introduced by Senators KENNEDY and GREGG, there are 34 cosponsors, including 11 Republicans. The House version of the bill passed by a vote of 314 to 97, supported by a majority in both parties.
It took a national tragedy in the form of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to remind us all of the critical role public safety officers play in our lives. Hundreds gave their lives that day, and hundreds more give their life in service each year, to ensure our safety and to protect us from danger. It is inexcusable that workers so dedicated to keeping America safe should be denied the basic and fundamental right to organize.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and to stop denying our firefighters, our police, and all of our first responders the right to organize.