Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, a bill that empowers firefighters, police officers and first responders to negotiate for the fair pay and benefits they deserve. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Woven deep within our collective memory of every major American disaster are the images of first responders who risk their lives to save others. The firefighter who goes back into a burning building to save an elderly man or woman. The medic who tends to victims as ambulances race to the scene. The police officer who cordons off an area and redirects those in danger to safety. Every one of these first responders is a hero; yet far too often, their heroism is overlooked.
“This week, the United States Senate has an opportunity to honor their service with legislation that will help them save lives and receive the fair pay and benefits they deserve. Senators Kennedy and Gregg have done an outstanding job writing this bipartisan bill.
“Their work is a model for what we can accomplish when we abandon partisanship and embrace the common good. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act is a bill that all Senators can and should proudly support. This legislation provides first responders the dignity and respect they have bravely earned by guaranteeing them the right to collective bargaining. That is a right that most private sector employees and public sector employees in 29 states plus the District of Columbia already have.
“It will mean better wages, hours, working conditions and benefits for those we count on in times of crisis. We may never be able to put a fair price on heroism, but this legislation is a start.
“But this right to collective bargaining respects state’s rights. The 29 states that already provide the right to collective bargaining for public safety officers would not be affected. The 21 states that do not provide for collective bargaining will have the opportunity to establish their own systems, or they may ask the Federal Labor Relations Authority to assist in the process. This legislation also guarantees fairness and public safety by expressly outlawing strikes, lockouts, and all forms of work stoppage.
“By guaranteeing collective bargaining and promoting better wages and working conditions, we will improve public safety. There is no question that first responders who are paid fairly and treated with respect will keep their jobs longer and perform more efficiently.
“Communities across America can rest more easily knowing that their local police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders have long and sustained ties to the neighborhoods in which they work.
“I have met with police and firefighters from Nevada to discuss this legislation. They, like their brothers and sisters across America, urge the Senate to take action. They welcome an opportunity to receive support to do their jobs more effectively, and to help them provide for their families. I urge my colleagues to stand with America’s brave first responders by supporting the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act.”