Fire union sues city of San Antonio alleging constitutional rights violations

Fire union sues city of San Antonio alleging constitutional rights violations (SBG San Antonio)

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio alleging the city has infringed on the union's First Amendment right.

According to lawyers representing the union, the city enacted policies that forced union organizers to keep a football field's distance from public places while they gathered petition signatures.

"This is literally almost a football field 280 feet that's where we are standing at today. This is where we were told that if we came any closer we would be arrested," said Chris Steele, President of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association.

The petitions centered on three proposed city charter amendments, including a proposal to cap the city manager's salary.

The union says the actions violated their constitutional rights.

City officials claim it has nothing to do with the union's actions, but rather regulating free speech activities.

They say the same rules apply for anyone engaging in political activities as well as the public.

"We create an area where if they want to come talk to those engaging in political activity they are allowed to do so. The irony is the fire union is saying that they are treated differently than others and yet they handed out a memo from 2013 from the city which laid out our free speech zone policy," said Jeff Coyle, Director of Government and Public Affairs for the city of San Antonio. "Every single one of our libraries has a free speech zone where people who are conducting political activity are required to be. The purpose of that is to prevent blocking the access to the library from people who just want to come here and rent books from being stopped and harassed over political issues."

The lawsuit does not seek damages, but asks for a jury trial.

The city says prior to the union's announcement, it hadn't received notice of the lawsuit.

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