Sunday, July 4, 2010

House Passes Education Funds, Gulf Cleanup, and Collective Bargaining for Public Safety Officers

On July 1, the House passed by a vote of 239-182 its version of legislation funding for two critical education programs, FEMA funds to clean up the BP oil spill in the Gulf, and a provision to extend federal collective bargaining rights to public safety officers. John Boozman (R-AR3) was the only Arkansas Congressman to vote against it.

The $10 billion education jobs fund included in the bill would help struggling schools prevent 140,000 layoffs and harmful education program cuts. AFSCME led a coalition of groups in support of the needed education funds. Further, $4.95 billion to pay off most of the Pell grant funding shortfall would protect over eight million college students from having their grants reduced. The bill also provides funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief, Haiti, the Gulf Coast oil spill, Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange, as well as $701 million for border security, $163 million for schools or military installations, and $50 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Domestic needs are fully offset with recessions of unspent funds.

The collective bargaining provision would cover public safety officers, one of the few groups of workers not covered by federal collective bargaining rights. It establishes minimum collective bargaining rights for public safety officers including: (1) the right of workers to form a union and bargain over hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment; (2) an impasse resolution mechanism, such as mediation, fact-finding or arbitration; and (3) the ability to have these basic rights enforced, including the right of the two parties to sign legally enforceable contracts.

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