City loses appeal on fire union's collective bargaining agreement evergreen clause

San Antonio Fire Department (Photo: SBG San Antonio)

SAN ANTONIO -- Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city will continue to appeal the evergreen clause in the collective bargaining agreement with the fire union.

The 4th Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled in favor of the fire union, saying that having the terms of the contract stay in place for ten years after it ends - does not violate the Texas Constitution.

"The one concern, that has always remained is that as this city grows, as it doubles in population, that the resources devoted to public safety are able to grow in proportion to that growth,” Mayor Nirenberg told us. “If not, it becomes a challenge for us to add firefighters to the department or add police officers to the department."

The city has been challenging the constitutionality of a provision in the evergreen clause. The clause keeps the current contract that expired in 2014 in place until 2024, something the mayor says the city cannot afford.

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association calls the lawsuit "frivolous" and maintains they're willing to meet to negotiate on a contract if the city drops its lawsuit.

The case will now go to the Texas Supreme Court.

Both the city and the San Antonio Firefighters Association issued news releases concerning the appeal:

City of San Antonio News Release:

Mayor Nirenberg announces City will continue to appeal evergreen clause, stresses focus on a resolution
The Fourth Court of Appeals has upheld questionable provisions of the City of San Antonio's collective bargaining agreement with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. The court ruled against the City in its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the so-called evergreen clause in the agreement.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg's response is below:
"While the judges disagreed with the City's position that the so-called 'evergreen clause' violated the State Constitution, I remain confident that the City's position will be upheld by the Texas Supreme Court.
"We recognize and applaud the hard work of our firefighters, who risk their lives to keep our residents safe. The evergreen clause, however, inhibits negotiations for new agreements and forces the City to provide benefits that threaten to overwhelm the City budget. This restricts our ability to provide other important City services. The evergreen clause eliminates any urgency to strike a new deal that is more fair and balanced for all.
"This case is not a trivial matter, as it affects how the City spends almost $800 million each year in public safety. It immediately impacts the pay and benefits of our firefighters, and the use of San Antonians' hard-earned tax dollars.
"The City will and must - on behalf of our taxpayers - pursue this case to its conclusion. Unfortunately, we are at this point to due to past decisions that did not envision today's fiscal reality. I am committed to ensuring that the City's future contracts with public safety unions are legal, constitutional and fair to all involved. We will continue to work toward a swift resolution to these contract negotiations."

San Antonio Firefighters Association News Release:

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has received the ruling on the Evergreen Lawsuit. The 4th Court of Appeals has affirmed the lower court ruling in favor of San Antonio Firefighters.
The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association are making a “significant” change in our stance on this lawsuit. It is our understanding that the Mayor is taking action on this issue behind closed doors this afternoon which we believe is a violation of the law and contrary to the Mayor's position of transparency during his recent campaign.
The association is scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon.

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