What Is the Public Safety
Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (PSEEC)?
- The act would require all state and local governments to
collectively bargain with public safety employees'--police
officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel--by
creating a federalized collective bargaining system for public
- PSEEC allows the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to
determine whether a state's collective bargaining arrangements meet
the standards as defined by the act.
- States and localities must collectively bargain with public
- They must permit bargaining over wages, hours, and all terms
and conditions of employment.
- They must provide a dispute resolution mechanism, such as
- The FLRA will have considerable authority to enforce the act,
- Determining the appropriateness of units for labor organization
- Conducting hearings and resolving complaints of unfair labor
- Supervising or conducting elections to determine whether a
labor organization has been selected as an exclusive representative
by a voting majority of the employees.
- States would be granted the authority to pass laws more
expansive than those the federal government imposed.
- States would not, however, be allowed to pass narrower laws
than those contained in the act.
- Large majorities of public safety employees already
- This legislation is a solution in search of a problem.
- The act would end local control and flexibility by forcing the
minority that has chosen not to collectively bargain to do so.
Different states and local governments have different needs and
should be free to fit their policies to their individual needs.
Collective bargaining does not work everywhere.
- Although the act gives the appearance of respecting local
control and flexibility, it actually severely restricts the freedom
of state and local governments to tailor their policies to their
needs. For instance:
- By requiring states to negotiate all terms and conditions of
employment, PSEEC would force states to negotiate subjects such as
replacing a merit-based pay system with seniority-based promotions,
which many local governments have found to be inappropriate in
- Promoting public safety employees on the basis of union
seniority, not ability or performance, compromises the public
- Merit-based promotions and raises encourage hard work and help
put the best workers in the most sensitive positions.
- Not all issues should be collectively negotiated.
- Even where public sector collective bargaining makes sense, the
public good demands that many terms and conditions of employment be
kept off the bargaining table. Police unions should not negotiate
the terms and conditions under which their members may use deadly
- Experience demonstrates that collective bargaining does not
lead to increased cooperation between public safety employees and
- The process is inherently adversarial: Pitting employees and
employers against each other at the bargaining table creates as
much conflict as cooperation.
- Consequently, public sector employees will often strike when
the law explicitly forbids it, putting vital public services at
- It may deter or even eliminate the formation of volunteer
firemen organizations. Firefighters unions vehemently oppose
volunteer firefighters because they reduce the need for paid
firefighters. They levy stiff internal fines against unionized
firefighters who volunteer off-duty. By requiring all states and
localities to collectively bargain, PSEEC would make it easier for
unions to crack down on volunteer firefighting.
- The act would impose a substantial unfunded mandate on state
and local governments.
- The act prevents employers from hiring workers who would do the
same job for less than union wages, thus undermining potentially
more qualified competition.
- Without providing financing for the mandate, the act will force
these governments to either cut services or raise taxes.
- This gives the union much more negotiating power but harms
workers who could negotiate a better individual deal with the
employer. A nonunion worker who prefers merit-based promotions must
instead accept what the union negotiates for him.
James Sherk is Bradley
Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The