All Americans should have the right to join a union and bargain collectively. These are basic human rights. They also help workers have power in the economy and a voice in democracy in order to secure decent wages and benefits and to ensure that elected representatives are responsive to the concerns of workers. With wages stagnant for decades, economic inequality near record levels, and a government too often captured by corporations and the rich, these rights are more important now than ever.
The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, to be reintroduced in Congress today, would take significant steps toward supporting workers’ rights and reversing these troubling trends by ensuring that all state and local governments provide public sector employees the right to form unions and bargain. Some state and local governments already provide workers with these rights, but many do not—and several states have recently taken away workers’ rights as part of a campaign orchestrated by a few very wealthy free-market ideologues and corporate special interests looking to further rig the system in their favor. The U.S. Supreme Court has also become increasingly hostile to unions as hard-line conservatives have taken over and issued decisions that have weakened the ability of public sector unions to raise the resources necessary to advocate for their members. One court decision, for example, allowed public sector workers to enjoy the benefits of union contracts without paying any of the costs of negotiating and enforcing them. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would guarantee that those states that do not currently provide bargaining rights are obliged to do so.The above excerpt was originally published in CAP Action.