Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Senate Democrats yesterday failed to deliver on a proposal popular with their union base that would have allowed emergency and law enforcement personnel to organize in 18 states.
Majority Leader Tom Daschle attempted to attach the amendment to a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education committees spending bill, but it was defeated. The procedural move by Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, required 60 votes to pass but got only a 56-44 vote.
The amendment would have required state and local governments that have banned unionization to implement collective bargaining for paid and unpaid police, firefighters, paramedics, rescue workers, ambulance personnel, hazardous materials workers and out-of-hospital emergency care workers.
Republicans questioned the appropriateness and timing of the measure in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of emergency workers.
“I think there are many better ways for the United States to express its appreciation to these employees than to have a very partisan and contentious issue of labor relations inserted into the appropriations bill under the guise of finding a way to support our police and firefighters,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
Mr. Kyl said the amendment is an unfunded mandate that overrides state and local law and imposes an arbitrary list of federal government rules. It was stripped from the $123 billion spending bill, which later passed 89-10.
Republicans said Mr. Daschle’s measure is bad policy that would empower the Federal Labor Relations Authority to override state law and county ordinances.
“This amendment is profoundly wrong and wrongheaded,” said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
“I understand that this is a time when we appreciate our firemen and we appreciate our policemen, but forcing people to pay union dues is not a way to show appreciation to people,” Mr. Gramm said.
Democrats said that unionizing ensures firefighters’ safety, and that union firefighters are less likely to be killed in a fire than nonunion firefighters.
“Every day, firefighters and police officers and emergency workers literally risk their lives to protect safety. In 18 states, public safety workers don’t currently have the legal right to sit down with their employers and talk about their own health and about their own safety,” Mr. Daschle said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the legislation was about decency and fairness in the workplace.
“The real question now is whether the United States Senate will permit these extraordinarily brave and courageous individuals to get together in order to provide an adequate and decent living. They’re not asking for the moon,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Sen. Don Nickles, assistant minority leader and Oklahoma Republican, said the vote should not be viewed as being unpatriotic or anti-union, but a states’ rights issue.
“The firefighters in Virginia were nonunion, the firefighters in New York were union that’s not the issue,” he said. “The issue is whether or not the federal government is going to go in and pre-empt states or dictate to the states collective bargaining laws for public employees.”
Seven Republicans crossed the aisle and sided with Democrats, including Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine; Mike DeWine, Ohio; Judd Gregg, New Hampshire; Peter G. Fitzgerald, Illinois; Gordon H. Smith, Oregon; and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania. Voting with Republicans were Democratic Sens. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia, and Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina.

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