Recently, an article by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation about the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 980) has been published in a number of newspapers across the country. The stated goal of H.R. 980 is, “To provide collective bargaining rights for public safety officers employed by States or their political subdivisions.”
The article cites a provision in H.R. 980 that was designed to protect the right of a career firefighter to volunteer during off-duty hours. Specifically, the provision bars collective bargaining agreements subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) from prohibiting employees from volunteering during off-duty hours. The article accurately states that this provision would not protect the vast majority of career firefighters. This is because NLRA applies to nongovernmental employees, while most career firefighters are employed by municipal or county units of government.
The National Volunteer Fire Council has worked diligently with Senate staff to develop language that would provide protection to career firefighters who volunteer during off-duty hours. On October 1, the Senate version of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S. 2123) was introduced and included language in Section 8(a)(5) that states that collective bargaining agreements struck in states affected by the bill cannot include provisions prohibiting employees from volunteering during off-duty hours.
The NVFC does not have a position on S. 2123 but is supportive of the language in Section 8(a)(5) protecting volunteer firefighters. The NVFC never established a position on H.R. 980 but would oppose enactment of legislation expanding collective bargaining rights to career firefighters without also protecting the right of those same firefighters to volunteer during off-duty hours should they choose to do so.