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One Reason the National Collective Bargaining Bill Failed

The National Collective Bargaining Bill HR 413 had passed the house and it seemed like it took years for it to be introduced in the Senate.  First there was the fear that George Bush would not sign it even if it made it through the Senate.  After Barack Obama was elected, Public Safety Officers thought that Collective Bargaining for Public Safety Employees would surely become the law of the land.  It seemed that the law wasn't high on the "Hit List" of our elected officials.  First came the Stimulus Bills and then the protracted and long fought battle over a health care law that the people didn't want.  Then came the mid-term elections in 2010 and Democrats lost the House and its stranglehold on the Senate.  Many of us said just put the bill up for hearing in the Senate based upon its merits.  Finally in December a vote was taken and S. 1611/S. 3194 was rejected by the Senate.

Many of you are upset and rightfully so that some of our friends in the Senate voted against this bill.  Finger pointing and hand wringing will continue however many people do not realize that the National Leadership of the FOP played a key role in the defeat of S. 1611/S.3194.  A letter sent by FOP National President Chuck Canterbury was sent to Senator Harry Reid on December 2, 2010 stating that the FOP could not support the bill as it was introduced because it excluded Deputy Sheriffs.  Below is the Quote from the FOP letter to Senator Reid.

"The FOP cannot, in good conscience, support a bill that would recognize the rights of law
enforcement officers
who work for a local chief but deny the existence of those same rights for a
law enforcement officer in the same jurisdiction simply because he works for a sheriff
."

FOP Letter December 2, 2010

This letter gave opponents and "fence sitters"  the way to reject Collective Bargaining for Public Employees.  This letter was first published on the FOP National website and was pulled almost immediately because it was so controversial.  The FOP single-handedly destroyed the work that so many people had been doing for the past 3 or 4 years. Most of us that have introduced legislation on the local, state and national level realize that you seldom get everything you want in a bill.  Knowing the strength of the opposition by Sheriffs throughout the country and the controversial nature of the collective bargaining legislation alone should have moved sensible people to realize that a partial victory was better than no victory.   Leadership of the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs is rightfully upset about how this letter sabotaged our efforts and the efforts of many others to get Collective Bargaining in Virginia. 

Yes, it would be nice to have Deputy Sheriffs have Bargaining Rights, but as it stands in Virginia and in many parts of the country, Deputy Sheriffs are "at-will" employees and as such are in a employed at the will of the Sheriff who in many cases is an elected Constitutional Officer.  To reject a Federal law to try to force Sheriffs to give their employees rights is a noble cause but it is also one that destroyed the ability for the rest of Public Safety (including Fire Fighters) to get these much needed rights. 

More importantly, the stars were "aligned" for a once in a lifetime opportunity for a National Collective Bargaining Bill to become the law of the land for most of Public Safety.  The chances that this will happen again in the future are extremely slim.  Many of us in Public Safety have worked our entire careers to visualize and enact a Collective Bargaining law and the rejection of the Senate bill was a big loss.

Leadership of the FOP should and must do some serious soul searching after the defeat of S. 1611/S. 3194.  Those of us in organized police labor have always had our doubts over the FOP and its focus on work related issues and Chuck Canterbury and the FOP's letter to Harry Reid and the Senate is the icing on the cake.  Once again, the FOP was on the wrong side of the isle.