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‘They deserve the freedom to negotiate’

Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act introduced to assure freedom to unionize nationwide


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 27, 2021) — The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act was introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) The bill, which currently has 154 cosponsors, would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide. It would empower workers to join together for a voice on the job not only to improve working conditions but to improve the communities in which they work.

TAKE A STAND — Take action to support this bill by calling or writing your member of Congress to urge them to cosponsor the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act — or to thank them for already cosponsoring. Among Washington state’s congressional delegation, Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and Marilyn Strickland are already co-sponsors. Also share these graphics on social media to show your support of the bill.

The Freedom to Negotiate Act will blunt a decades-long effort by anti-worker politicians and their wealthy corporate donors to deny workers the chance to join strong unions. Specifically, the law will 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;
  • Resolve disputes with their employers through an unbiased process;
  • Use voluntary payroll deduction for union dues;
  • Engage in concerted activities related to collective bargaining and mutual aid;
  • Have their union be free from requirements to hold rigged recertification elections; and
  • File suit in court to enforce their labor rights.

Currently, nearly half the states don’t have laws that provide for meaningful collective bargaining in the public sector. The Freedom to Negotiate Act would allow public service workers across the country to join together in a union to win respect and fair treatment on the job.

“Public workers have educated our students, treated our patients and kept our communities strong and safe during the COVID crisis,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a joint release issued by AFSCME, AFT, NEA and SEIU. “But in many states, they are still denied the basic freedom to have a real say over the work they do, their wages and other conditions of employment. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act ensures minimum standards are in place across the nation to help those on the front lines achieve what would be impossible alone — better and more-efficient public services, dignity and voice at work, and fair compensation and benefits. We are honored to support it and will fight for its passage.”

At a press conference Tuesday announcing the bill’s introduction, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said that the freedom to join together in unions is a fundamental right of all workers.

“Like all working people in this country, public service workers deserve the right to stand together with their coworkers in a union, to bargain together for safer and fairer working conditions,” Shuler said.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders highlighted the sacrifices that public service workers have made over the past two years during the pandemic.

“Health care workers, school employees, corrections officers, sanitation workers, behavioral health professionals and many more – they have stood fearlessly on the front lines to protect their neighbors from this pandemic,” Saunders said. “For all their service and sacrifice, they deserve the freedom to negotiate – to sit down with management, discuss terms of employment and hammer out a fair contract.”

The benefits that unions provide are broad and powerful. We know, for example, that union members earn higher wages and are more likely than nonunion members to have employer-provided health care and other benefits, like paid sick and family leave. Particularly for women and workers of color, belonging to a union closes income and wealth gaps. For those who work in the public sector, belonging to a union means pay more in line with private sector counterparts. But unions benefit not only those who belong to them, but even those who aren’t members. The COVID-19 crisis made even clearer that unions are also a crucial tool for on-the-job safety.

Finally, there’s strong support for the Freedom to Negotiate Act. Seventy percent of Americans support the law. And with public support for unions at its highest since 1965 — 68% — it’s time for Congress to pass the PSFNA.

Learn more at

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!