Bill won't affect TPD, TFD, since unions in place

An amended bill the governor signed last week won’t affect the Tahlequah Police or Fire departments.

Area law enforcement officials say an amended bill won’t affect their departments.

On May 5, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law House Bill 2747, which will streamline the collective bargaining process between firefighters and police officers. The bill lays out a process for how new agents are recognized and a mechanism or dispute resolution through the American Arbitration Association in the absence of the Public Employees Relations Board.

“These is a simple bill that will allow these public safety officials to designate who they wish to bargain for them when negotiating their wages and pensions with the municipalities for whom they work,” said Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow. “Right now, because of the sunset of the Public Employees Relations Board, there exists a gap that left court as the only recourse to certify these small departments. This corrects that.”

Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King explained the amendment doesn’t directly affect his department.

“It deals with Chapter 2011, Section 51-102, and that’s the statute that set out the procedure for a police department or fire department to form a union — for the Fraternal Order of Police or the Local Fire Union,” said King. “The Public Employee Relations Board oversaw those elections within each department to recognize them as the bargaining agent – or the union, for lack of a better word.”

The PERB was created in the 1970s to help resolve issues of unfair labor laws affecting union employees and municipalities, or counties.

“I think three years ago, the state allowed PERB to sunset and the board was dissolved. We were already established as an FOP Lodge, but it would have been difficult for an agency to become or do away with their FOP during that timeline,because there was no entity to oversee that,” said King.

Fire Chief Casey Baker echoed King's statements, and said the bill won’t affect his department, either.

“It’s a measure that was put in place to allow fire and police departments the right unionize without retaliation from municipalities. The PERB was the protection and it sunset,ed so this new bill gives the protection to employees to unionize,” said Baker. “It won’t affect us one way or the other because we’re already unionized.”

If a municipality wasn’t bargaining in good faith or was refusing to recognize that union, a compliant would have been filed with PERB.

“This amendment helps people establish their union, but there’s still some gray area on what to do if a city or union, either one, is not bargaining or negotiating in good faith,” said King.

The bill will go into effect Nov. 1.

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