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Senate Kills Bargaining for Police, Fire Workers

November 07, 2001|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate killed a Democratic-led effort Tuesday to let tens of thousands of firefighters, police and emergency workers across the country bargain collectively.

By a mostly party-line 56-44 vote, supporters fell short of the 60 votes they needed to halt GOP delaying tactics aimed at killing the collective bargaining proposal.

The International Assn. of Fire Fighters, which represents 250,000 firefighters nationwide, said the measure was its top legislative priority for the year.

The amendment to a labor, health and education spending bill was authored by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Labor Committee, and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Republican on that panel.

As part of the compromise, the measure would have prohibited the workers from striking or the municipalities that employ them from locking them out.

Republicans distributed a memo during the debate calling the proposal "a clear and avoidable danger" that "could lead to firefighter, police strikes during a terrorist attack."

In an interview, Harold Schaitberger, president of the firefighters association, called that argument "trash."

"The whole world watched what my members, the firefighters, were willing to do at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center," he said, referring to the sites of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "It's appalling they'd use such disingenuous tactics."

Schaitberger's group said the proposal would have eased restrictions on collective bargaining by public safety personnel in 22 states. Republicans said it would have preempted local laws in 27 states.

After the proposal was rejected, the Senate approved the underlying legislation, a $123.1-billion bill for this year's education, health and labor programs.

The overall measure, approved, 89 to 10, is the biggest domestic spending bill of the new fiscal year. The measure, $14 billion larger than last year, includes increases for school aid and biomedical research and now must be reconciled with a similar House bill.

Separately, House-Senate bargainers agreed to a compromise measure providing $85.4 billion for veterans, housing and environmental programs.

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