WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a rally with other House Democrats and public safety officers to mark the passage today of H.R. 980, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Today, some people say that this Congress is no different than previous ones. Well, I think the people who believe that need to pay closer attention to what this New Direction Congress is actually doing.
"Just over an hour ago, this House passed legislation that would give you - our nation's law enforcement officers, professional firefighters and emergency medical services personnel - your basic, fundamental right to form and join labor organizations and to collectively bargain over working hours, wages, and terms of employment.
"Even though this legislation passed on a broad bipartisan vote of 314 to 97 (including 98 Republicans voting aye), the simple truth is: the previous leadership in the House of Representatives never had any intention of allowing this bill come to the Floor for a vote.
"Today, we changed that.
"Today, we struck a blow for fairness for our first responders.
"Today, we recognized that the least we can do for you - the professionals we rely on to help us in life-and-death emergencies - is show you the respect that you deserve.
"The legislation that we passed today is measured and balanced.
"It provides modest minimum standards to be included in state laws, without undermining state authority or existing state laws. And, it gives states broad flexibility to craft, implement and enforce their own collective bargaining laws.
"Today, tens of thousands of our nation's firefighters, police officers and emergency medical services personnel in 20 states are wrongly and unfairly denied basic workplace rights. It's long past time that we address this situation.
"Today, the House has done just that - and I hope the Senate will take up this legislation in the near future."