Appeals Court docket Overturns Prop-B Ruling Blocking Equal Pay for Houston Firefighters – Houston Public Media

Houston firefighters respond to a fire at the Main Street Market on 901 Main Street in downtown Houston. Recorded on October 17th, 2019.

A court wrongly blocked Proposition B, an amendment to the statutes that would have guaranteed equal pay between firefighters and police officers in Houston, a state appeals court ruled on Thursday.

In a 2: 1 decision, the jury of the 14th Court of Appeal found that the lower court had wrongly ruled that Proposition B was unconstitutional.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association described the ruling as a “heavy blow” to the city’s ongoing struggle against the measure.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I know Proposal B is the law,” union president Marty Lancton told Houston Public Media. “It’s time for the city to stop. It is time for the city to sit down and resolve this problem once and for all. If you can’t listen to the 300,000 voters, listen to the appeals court and its decision. “

The Houston Police Officers’ Union successfully sued Proposition B in 2018, arguing that it violated the Texas Constitution and state law that governs local union bargaining rights.

However, the appeals court dismissed both complaints on Thursday, as it did not unequivocally state that the Fire Brigade and Police Working Group Act would anticipate a “compensation floor” for firefighters. And so the court also found that the amendment did not violate Article XI, Section 5 of the Texas Constitution, which prohibits changes that conflict with the law of the state

The case was referred back to the local court for further hearing.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Ken Wise found that state law “unmistakably anticipates Prop B” and sets more than a minimum payment limit for firefighters. In fact, Wise wrote, the charter amendment violated a measure by FPERA aimed at establishing remuneration comparable to that of the private sector.

“Since the change in wage parity ties firefighters’ compensation to a standard that is not based on prevailing private sector compensation, the undisputed evidence in this case shows that the change contradicts FPERA,” Wise wrote.

The decision comes as Houston firefighters attempt to get another constitutional amendment on the ballot – one that would require binding arbitration between the city and the union. The union says it has collected more than the 20,000 signatures required.

In order for the amendment to appear on the ballot, the signatures must be verified by August 16.

But the city made no commitments to review signatures in time for the August deadline, and at Tuesday’s public meeting of the city council, Mayor Sylvester Turner said the review could take three months – a revelation Lancton is “alarming and worrying about.” “called.

“This city has repeatedly shown that the votes of the electorate come second,” Lancton said. “And I think that given the context of everything that’s going on not just here in the state but at the national level, this should create alarm and concern among everyone. That is voter suppression at its most organic level. “

A spokesman for the mayor did not comment immediately on Thursday.

The Houston firefighters have been without a contract since their previous contract expired in 2017.

In 2018, Houston voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Proposal B despite opposition from Mayor Turner and the Houston Police Union. The police union later sued, and a district judge ruled in May 2019 that the proposal was “unconstitutional and void in its entirety”.

Since then, the union has unsuccessfully pushed for mediation with the city, which fought in court to end the collective bargaining process. In May, judges in a separate state appeals court ruled that state law gave firefighters the right to negotiate.

Last month, Houston City Council approved an 18% raise for firefighters without negotiation. The union has rejected the idea that the hike is a “hike” and instead calls it a “bonus” because it relies on temporary federal funding with no guarantee that the money will be available in three years.

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