Appeals court rules in favor Houston firefighters in collective bargaining case

houston firefighters rally
The 14th Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)

The 14th Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Houston Professional Firefighters Association was dealt a win in its longstanding legal battle with the city of Houston May 6.

Members of the 14th court of appeals ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017. After failed attempts at mediation, the fire union sued the city of Houston alleging that it neglected to negotiate in good faith and the city responded by alleging that some of the terms under which the two parties were required to negotiate, which are set by state law, are unconstitutional.

In the decision handed down by the appeals court May 6, the court disagreed with the city’s stance and required it to pay the legal fees incurred by the union.

“We are grateful for this ruling. It should be a signal for the mayor to end the vindictive, taxpayer-funded legal campaign against Houston firefighters and our families,” said HPFFA President Marty Lancton in a news release. “This ruling provides the city with an opportunity to reverse course and resolve our disputes.”

Union representatives from the Texas and Gulf Coast American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations also celebrated the decision as a win for labor relations in the state.


The terms at question in the lawsuit are two provisions within the state local government code which require local officials to ensure police or firefighter wages are comparable to a private sector employee with a similar position. If the city and a union reach an impasse and either refuse to enter binding arbitration, the court must determine what a comparable pay rate should be for up to one year, according to state code.

“We also ask the city to abandon a dangerous legal strategy that is at odds with Houstonians’ support at the polls for firefighters and jeopardizes the ability of all First Responders in Texas to speak up together for better working conditions,” said Texas AFL-CIO president Rick Levy in a news release.

In response, a statement from the mayor’s office indicated that the city may appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

“The City respectfully disagrees with today’s opinion that lets a trial court decide pay and benefits under a comparable pay standard never negotiated between the parties,” a statement from Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office read. “The City is evaluating its options and will decide in due time whether to ask the Texas Supreme Court to address this matter or present evidence to the trial court in support of just, fair, and affordable compensation to Houston’s Fire Fighters. The City has continually been, and remains, committed to negotiating in good faith with the Union.”

The collective bargaining lawsuit is not the only legal challenge between the two parties. In 2018, the firefighters union successfully passed a ballot initiative known as Proposition B that required the city pay firefighters and police officers of equal rank the same pay. The city’s legal challenge to the proposition is still awaiting a ruling from the 14th Court of Appeals.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

Americans spent 44% more shopping on websites, including Amazon, in 2020 than in 2019. (Courtesy Amazon)
Surge in online shopping strains Houston’s distribution channels

Online spending in the U.S. was up 44% from 2019 to 2020, and transportation expert Bill Eisele said this uptick has put a strain on the region’s transportation system.

According to county officials, 40% of the $125 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Harvey took place within Harris County. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas General Land Office says it is 'not feasible' to request $750M in federal flood aid within 30 days

Houston-area officials ask for 30-day-dealine on the Texas General Land Office's formal request for $750 million in federal flood aid funding, but GLO says it is not possible.

Texas Central has signed a $16 billion contract with Webuild to lead the civil construction team that will build the train. (Rendering courtesy Texas Central)
Texas Central signs $16B construction contract for high-speed rail project

Texas Central could be one step closer to starting construction.

Russ Poppe, the Harris County Flood Control District executive director, will officially step down July 2 after nearly fifteen years in the position. (Courtesy Harris County Flood Control District)
Executive Director Russ Poppe announces resignation from Harris County Flood Control District

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe announced his resignation June 11.

Robert Mock headshot
Houston names new emergency center director

The center manages 911 calls and other emergency communications.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued a call for Texans to conserve energy June 14. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT asks Texans to conserve energy with generation outages 2.5 times higher than normal

"This is unusual for this early in the summer season," said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a news release.

League City's Helen Hall Library History Club hosted an event related to Juneteenth on June 7. The holiday honors Union Gen. Gordon Granger coming to Galveston in 1865 to announce the liberation of enslaved people in Texas. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Celebrate Juneteenth in Galveston with a movie screening, parade and more on June 17, 19

The Juneteenth Legacy Project, which aims to recontextualize the day and properly communicate its story and relevance, is hosting or advertising numerous events over the course of the holiday weekend.

Missouri City resident Jackie Ward became the chief nursing officer at Texas Children’s Hospital in January. (Photo by Michael Carr Photography, graphic by Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Jackie Ward, Texas Children's Hospital chief nursing officer, discusses career, nursing during COVID-19

Prior to becoming chief nursing officer, Missouri City resident Jackie Ward worked as an oncology nurse and in a variety of leadership roles at Texas Children's Hospital.

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise. (Community Impact staff)
HISD approves $2,500 pay raise for teachers with another bump possibly coming in August

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise.

Taco Bueno sells tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and more unique items, including the Muchaco, a taco made with a soft pita-like shell. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Taco Bueno coming to Katy and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The property at 7620 Washington Ave.—formerly a brick and construction material supply business—includes a 12,595-square-foot showroom and a 19,250-square-foot warehouse. (Courtesy Henry S. Miller Companies)
Grubbs Automotive leases space on Washington Avenue with plans for Volvo dealership

The property at 7620 Washington Ave.—formerly a brick and construction material supply business—includes a 12,595-square-foot showroom and a 19,250-square-foot warehouse.