AFSCME Members Voice Support for Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act

AFSCME members sat down with congressional lawmakers last week to share stories about how the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would improve communities and empower workers.

Susan Spain, a school bus driver and AFSCME Local (CSEA) member who works in Ballston Spa, New York, says the children she drives to and from school every day “are my top priority.” Having a strong union means she’s able provide her students with the best service possible. “A union is so important. Without [my union], I don’t know how anything would get accomplished.”

Spain and other AFSCME members described to their representatives how the legislation (H.R. 3463 in the House, S. 1970 in the Senate) would spread the union difference to a larger swath of workers. It’s a difference marked by higher wages, employer-provided health care, pensions and benefits like paid sick and family leave. Even more broadly, unions help secure needed safety standards, job protections and the resources necessary for workers to do their jobs well and to meet the needs of the communities they care about.  

Jessica Rinebold, a school secretary from Rochester, New York, and BENTE Local 2419 (Council 66) member, thrives on helping not only the students who attend the school where she works, but by being an important resources for parents, teachers and staff.

Rinebold says, “My union fights for a fair contract, for days off, to get lunch breaks, weekends. … We get those things because of a union.”

It’s no secret that unions improve the lives not only of their members, but of entire communities. For women and workers of color, who face lower earnings, unions help bridge the gap by providing high wages and stronger job protections. At the same time, it’s also no secret that there is an ongoing, robust corporate-backed effort to attacks unions and weaken workers’ ability to join them.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that all states must provide to state and local workers. Currently, about half the states do not provide all state and local workers the ability to negotiate for fair wages and benefits. 

Specifically, the bills would give public service workers the freedom to:

  • Join together in a union selected by a majority of employees;
  • Collectively bargain over wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment;
  • Access dispute resolution mechanisms;
  • Use voluntary payroll deduction for union dues;
  • Engage in concerted activities related to collective bargaining and mutual aid without fear of retaliation or discrimination;
  • Have their union be free from requirements to hold rigged recertification elections; and
  • Sue to enforce their labor rights.

It’s time to level the playing field by establishing federal protections to guarantee public service workers the right to join together and collectively bargain. This bill would help unrig an economy that’s set up to favor the rich and corporate interests.