At the direction of Mayor Sylvester Turner, lawyers for the City along with the police officer’s union will argue that Proposition B, a 2018 measure approved by voters granting firefighters pay equality with police, violates the constitution.
"The vote of the people is a sacred thing and the fact that the City has taken a position against its own law is mind-blowing," said Marty Lancton, President of Houston's firefighter union.
Lancton contends his members felt compelled to push Prop B only because the City refused to collectively bargain in good faith, a right Houston voters first granted firefighters in 2003. Turns out the companion case simultaneously before the High Court on Tuesday involves the city's bid to nullify as "unconstitutional" voter approved collective bargaining for its firefighters.
"The law was designed to protect the men and women. The law was not designed to be weaponized like this City has done," said Lancton.
Having closely observed five, bitter years of taxpayer-funded litigation, Council Member Michael Kubosh says the imminent prospect of firefighters prevailing in one or both cases will strike a crushing blow to the City's financial well-being.
"The firefighters have obviously been mistreated, and it's easy to see when you are sitting where I am. If the Supreme Court rules the way I hear it may rule, then the City is going to have about a $500 million payroll to pay that we didn't plan for, that we didn't have the money for, and we don't have the money in the general fund for now," said Kubosh.
Mary Benton with Mayor Turner's Office offered this comment:
In June 2021, the City of Houston gave firefighters an 18 percent raise over three years.
If Houston does not prevail in the Prop B case, the significant financial burden will threaten the city’s finances and its ability to deliver services. It will force significant structural changes to the fire department, and will result in a reduction of personnel from departments across the city, including police and fire.
We believe that the Texas Supreme Court will see clearly that Prop B and Chapter 174.252 are nothing more than unconstitutional end runs around the collective bargaining process Houston voters chose for their firefighters.
After Tuesday's single hour of oral argument, the Texas Supreme Court will likely issue final and binding decisions in both cases within 60 days.