Disputed Reid amendment dies

Published 7:42 pm Saturday, May 29, 2010

Staff Writer

An amendment that would have granted collective-bargaining rights to first responders was pulled from a war-funding bill approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate.
The controversial amendment, put forward by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was withdrawn from the big-picture legislation, according to Chandler Smith, a spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
The Democratic Senate leader’s amendment had been opposed by Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
The measure, derided as a potentially unfunded mandate from the federal government, also was opposed by numerous state and local governments and many of their lobbying organizations across the nation.
Reid’s office contended that the amendment would have opened “a path for first responders to seek union representation,” and would have allowed bargaining on such matters as wages and working conditions.
Supporters of the collective-bargaining concept pointed out the fact that the amendment would not have allowed public-safety workers or law-enforcement officials to go on strike, which is widely forbidden for first responders in the United States.
Whatever the case, the amendment, an echo of previous forms of legislation calling for collective bargaining, succumbed to election-year pressure to scale back spending in this harrowing economic period.
The $60 billion war package was slashed by billions of dollars in response to concern over budget deficits, The Associated Press reported.
The Reid amendment was one topic of a meeting of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association in Raleigh this week, related Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan.
Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel of the association, said the group was “adamantly opposed to collective bargaining forced upon the sheriffs of North Carolina.”
All 100 sheriffs in the state belong to the organization, Caldwell said.
“As far as I know all across North Carolina the sheriffs value their employees, and it’s the best resource they have,” he commented.
He added, “What collective bargaining does is it divides that relationship by forcing in the middle of the relationship a third party. And that just complicates it and makes for a much more difficult situation.”