Texas municipal employees unions breathe sigh of relief

Police and firefighter unions in municipalities across the state likely breathed a sigh of relief when the Texas Court of Appeals decided in favor of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association (HPFFA).

The union and city have been skirmishing over firefighters’ salaries since 2017, when their attempts at mediation failed. The firefighters’ union then filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city of Houston had not negotiated in good faith.

The city responded by filing a suit that claimed that some of the terms it was required by law to negotiate with the union were unconstitutional.

Court decision and union response

The 14th Court of Appeals sided with HPFFA, however. The city is required to pay the union’s legal fees in the matter.

“We are grateful for this ruling,” HPFFA President Marty Lancton said, adding that the decision “provides the city with an opportunity to reverse course and resolve our disputes.”

Houston’s proposal

A few days later, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner proposed a salary increase for firefighters of 18 percent spread out over the next three years.

City officials said the raise will be paid from the federal pandemic relief funding the city received.

Lancton said “Houston firefighters appreciate any bonus that is given from the federal stimulus,” but emphasized that the proposal represents “a bonus. This is not a raise.”

He said the city should return to the bargaining table and negotiate a resolution to the four-year impasse.

Employee contract negotiations between cities and fire and police unions include matters such as employee benefits, wages, hours, job duties, grievance procedures and more.