House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Committee Statement

March 10, 2010

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
or Ryan Murphy
(202) 225-4527

Price Statement: Hearing on “H.R. 413, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2009”

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to begin by thanking our distinguished panel for appearing today. We appreciate that they have taken time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and expertise with us.

Firefighters and public safety officers do a tremendous job protecting our communities. They are on the front lines of emergencies and represent a key component of the services provided by local governments. For many folks, firefighters and public safety officers are the most prominent way in which citizens interact with their local governments.

Now to the matter at hand, there are good Members on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, who in good conscience support this bill. And there are both Republicans and Democrats, who in equally good faith oppose it.

For many of us, the question today is not whether firefighters and other safety personnel should have the right to join a union. Rather, the question is whether the federal government should be the one to make that decision, and in so doing, overrule the decisions made by state and local governments over the last 70 years. 

At its core, H.R. 413 prescribes “minimum standards” for state labor laws and gives Washington the power to determine whether state laws are valid. It represents a significant intrusion into purely local matters.

Undoubtedly, some will argue that this measure will have no effect on the majority of states as they already have public sector bargaining laws on their books. I appreciate that view, and in many cases, this is true. Passage would not change state bargaining laws that meet or exceed the bill’s minimum requirements.

But what is also true is that each and every one of the fifty states must submit its state labor laws for review by the federal government. Washington will make the decision of whether these laws pass muster. And in imposing such mandates, Congress will expand the scope of a state’s obligations, liabilities and costs.

Put more simply, we are empowering Washington to substitute its judgment for that of reasoned decisions by state legislatures, courts, and agencies. 

Moving ahead in the weeks to come, we all know that this bill will eventually see the House floor. But I would be remiss if I did not point out that the timing of this legislation could hardly be worse. In light of the historic economic downturn, states and municipalities are almost universally facing staggering budget deficits and an inability to fund and provide for basic needs. To have Washington dictate an additional set of costs on these governments, through mandated collective bargaining, strikes me as unwise at this moment.

Thank you, Chairman and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

# # #