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Clearing the Smoke Over Collective Bargaining

October 8, 2007

Grand Forks, ND - North Dakota fire fighters are trying to "clear the smoke" when it comes to union negotiations. A bipartisan bill is moving through Congress to grant collective bargaining rights to public safety employees. Opponents are charging it will lead to strikes and the end of volunteer firemen. Grand Forks firefighter Ed Grossbauer says the claims are all smoke and no flame.

"Part of crafting the legislation for the North Dakota International Association of Firefighters explicitly prohibits strikes and governmental lockouts, so there will be no job actions whatsoever."

Currently in North Dakota, police, fire, and other public safety workers are free to unionize, but those unions can't participate in face-to-face negotiations over wages, safety, and working conditions. The bill passed the U.S. House this summer.

Grossbauer, the head of the North Dakota International Association of Firefighters, explains how the law will help North Dakota keep its homegrown firefighters in the state.

"The out-migration that affects the private sector is affecting the public sector too. We want to keep our people here, we want to pay them properly, give them good working conditions, and keep them in North Dakota."

John Robinson, Public News Service - ND