Ruling follows city’s efforts to undercut voter-approved collective bargaining

A state district judge rejected the City of Houston’s attempt to have the voter-approved collective bargaining system for Houston firefighters declared “unconstitutional,” the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association said today.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had asked the court to declare the firefighters’ use of Texas Local Government Code Chapter 174 “unconstitutional” after publicly claiming he still wants to negotiate a new firefighter contract under the same system.

On Monday, State District Judge Wesley Ward also rejected the Turner Administration’s attempt to throw out the firefighters’ lawsuit against the city which was filed after 2017 contract negotiations ended. During 60 days of negotiations, the city failed to offer any proposals and it became clear the mayor’s team had no authorization to reach a deal. Firefighters had begun the negotiations with a 40-article contract proposal.

HPFFA President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton said, “We’re grateful the court rejected the mayor’s attack on voter-approved collective bargaining and allowed us to move forward with our case. We think the evidence in the case shows that the mayor’s team never intended to negotiate with us in good faith. From city hall to the courthouse, the mayor’s vindictive, taxpayer-funded obsession with punishing Houston firefighters and our families continues.”

Houston voters approved Chapter 174 collective bargaining for Houston firefighters 2003. The law has governed wage rates for Texas public safety personnel for four decades, Before 2017, the HPFFA has successfully negotiated several contracts with the city.

Earlier this year, Texas labor leaders, led by Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy, warned Turner of the “dangerous implications” of his position in the firefighter litigation. The mayor’s constitutionality argument, Levy wrote, risks “wide ranging consequences to the detriment of many thousands of Texas working
people and their families.”

The case is “Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 341 v. City of Houston, Texas,” Cause No. 2017-42885 in the 234th District Court of Harris County, Texas. The HPFFA is represented in the litigation by E. Troy Blakeney.

“The Mayor’s vindictive treatment of firefighters is bad for Houston,” said Dolcefino Consulting president Wayne Dolcefino. “It’s time Houstonians wake up to what kind of Mayor this guy is.”

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