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No arbitration

And we’re on to the next phase of the firefighter pay battle.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association on Tuesday asked Mayor Sylvester Turner to enter arbitration to settle its ongoing labor dispute with the city, a request the mayor shot down as he called instead for a return to collective bargaining.

The union’s request came less than a week after a state district judge ruled Proposition B unconstitutional and void. The charter amendment approved by voters last November granted firefighters the same pay as police of corresponding rank and seniority.

Turner made clear Tuesday that he does not intend to accept the union’s request.

“The city of Houston is willing to return to the table for collective bargaining which would be the regular course of business,” the mayor said in a written statement.

[…]

Fire union President Marty Lancton said the mayor had yet to contact the union about sitting down to negotiate anew. He repeatedly has questioned Turner’s claim that the city could not afford Prop B, and on Tuesday cast doubt on Turner’s willingness to negotiate a “fair raise” for firefighters.

Arbitration, Lancton contended, would resolve the pay dispute before Houston’s 2020 fiscal year starts July 1.

“This is a sensible solution,” Lancton said. “We continue to wait for the call that the mayor says he is willing to make. Let’s resolve this now, mayor.”

Turner spokeswoman Mary Benton said the union “knows how to reach the mayor,” and repeated Turner’s statement that his “door is open and he is ready and willing to meet with the fire union.”

So if I’m interpreting this correctly, the Mayor is offering to go back to the collective bargaining process, while the firefighters are saying instead let’s take our respective offers and present them to an arbitrator and let that person make the call. I’m not quite sure what to make of that. I suppose this is the HPFFA’s way of saying they trust the city to negotiate in good faith. If so, all I can say is that the city could say the same about the firefighters. Whatever the case, we’re now at a standoff about how to go about resolving the larger standoff. The firefighters can claim that they have the will of the voters on their side, but unless they win their appeal of the summary judgment declaring Prop B unconstitutional, that only means so much. In the meantime, I’m going to find my happy place and practice some deep breathing.

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8 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I’m so tired of this. When Emperor Turner says that “his door is open,” that means that the firefighters can come in and grovel before him. He has time and again shown that he rules like a viceroy and has used his position to punish those who oppose him and reward those to whom he owes his election. The entire proposition could have been avoided if he would have offered the firefighters a fair raise two years ago, instead of making a bad faith offer when the union asked for 20% and he offered 4% and then refused to go to an arbiter at that time. Now, after a fortune has been wasted on legal battles, he once again won’t go to arbitration. The firefighters have not had a raise since 2011 or something like that. I do condemn the city council, which should impeach him for promoting segregation in violation of the city fair housing ordinance. The council members I’ve asked have no response as to why they won’t impeach him. And I am sure that he will be re-elected, perhaps after a runoff. I guess you all agree with segregation, as long as the Confederate statues aren’t around.

  2. Bill_Daniels says:

    ” He has time and again shown that he rules like a viceroy and has used his position to punish those who oppose him and reward those to whom he owes his election.”

    Uh, didn’t the firefighters play a significant part in getting Turner elected? According to your theory, Turner should have rewarded the firefighters. What gives?

  3. C.L. says:

    Dear Mr. Lancton, regardless of your questioning the Mayor’s “…claim that the city could not afford Prop B…”, the bottom line is Prop B was ruled unconstitutional and void. Doesn’t matter if it could have been afforded or not, Prop B’s dead. Gone. Kissed goodbye.

    WTF asks for a 20% raise, then ain’t happy when the counter offer is 4% ? You gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them… and know when to just take the 4% so you can live to fight another day.

  4. Steve Houston says:

    1) “…has used his position to punish those who oppose him and reward those to whom he owes his election…” This describes every politician out there to a degree.

    2) “The entire proposition could have been avoided if he would have offered the firefighters a fair raise two years ago, instead of making a bad faith offer when the union asked for 20%…” Ask the average city resident what constitutes a “fair raise” for a city employee and I’d be willing to bet most will pick numbers toward the lower end of the scale.

    3) “The firefighters have not had a raise since 2011…” Between 2004 and 2010 they received an average of 34% in raises and even pension boosts while the other two groups took cuts and received almost no raises. They turned down offers made and even lost a huge amount of funds in market losses in their pension system that the city was forced to fully fund.

    4) “I do condemn the city council, which should impeach him for promoting segregation in violation of the city fair housing ordinance.” While HUD was melting down on the national level, it needed something to draw attention away from it’s own problems, Houston’s very long history in pushing all low cost housing projects in certain areas became the perfect target. Council won’t support impeachment since they opposed the project too, as did a few state representatives and other officials based on local opposition. That the opposition was largely comprised of people that wouldn’t vote for Turner didn’t matter, his refusal to support the Fountain View project over all the opposition does not constitute “promotion of segregation”, merely a recognition that the only people supporting the project were the developers standing to make big bucks. Had he supported the project, the same NIMBY’s would have cursed him and found something else to bitch about, HUD’s findings not based solely on facts to begin with.

    The union sued the city to force binding arbitration in 2017 and that matter is still tied up in the courts. That the union would now offer binding arbitration as the perfect solution to the pay dispute is pretty cheeky, to say the least. The mayor has made it clear that he is willing to give the union 9.5% and there will be strings attached but until the union goes to him rather than constantly rely on the courts, the delay is at least as much their fault. He’s not going to offer 30% or more so adjust your expectations before making the trip. The longer the union drags this out, the more support they lose and none of his opponents have yet come up with a way to pay for massive raises so even if one of them wins, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

  5. C.L. says:

    The HFD firefighters union are their own worst enemy.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    @Steve–HUD did a good job then, because, I never heard about its meltdown. So you are saying that the city council is staffed by racists and segregationists, so all of them need to go. I miss my old neighbors who didn’t fit the profile desired by the elites. the NIMBY’s are what is known as racist. There are tons of lousy stick construction “lofts” going up causing more impervious ground, more traffic, and the like, with no protests. But anytime there is a project called affordable housing, it gets shot down by the people who feel good about themselves for pulling down a statue or something.

  7. Steve Houston says:

    Jason, guys like Ben Carson appreciate you refusing to keep up with his antics as the head of HUD for the last few years. They have gone from one scandal to the next as low information voters such as yourself remain oblivious.

    And I’m not saying city council, the mayor, or the various state representatives that opposed the project were or are racists, I’m saying that they listened to the very vocal residents of the area. Frankly, I don’t think race was the primary motivator for most of the neighbors either, I think they object to having a bunch of poor people living very close to them. The perception that poor people are more prone to criminal activity has supporting data but I’m sure lots of them still live in the area so they can oppose Turner in November with you.

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    Steve, no worries about me being a low information voter. On Election Day, I will be at home. I reject the entire charade. All that I know about Ben Carson is that he’s a doctor (MD) and a vegetarian. The majority of poor people, like any other group, are good people.