I don’t think there is a citizen in Houston who is not fed up with hearing about the City’s ongoing, never-ending dispute with its fire fighters over their pay. While there has been a lack of flexibility on both sides, Turner’s refusal, once again, to submit the dispute to binding arbitration is a clear indication that the bulk of the responsibility for this debacle is due to his intransigent, vindictive and imperial approach to running City Hall.
Voters frequently ask me how I would have handled this situation had I been mayor. The answer is I would have never allowed the City to get into this mess in the first place.
In 2017, the fire fighters requested collective bargaining with the City pursuant to state law. Those negotiations took place in March 2017. The union asked for a 20% raise over three years and the City offered a 4% raise over two years. Four percent over two years was not a good faith offer. The fire fighters had not gotten a raise since 2011. It would have taken about a 12% raise just to make up for inflation.
Two months went by without any further offers from the City. [i] On May 15, 2017, the union requested that the City submit their dispute to binding arbitration. [Click here to see letter.] Turner inexplicably refused. A rational CEO of the City would have jumped at the opportunity to resolve this dispute amicably. That is certainly what I have done.
Had Turner simply said yes to that request, this dispute would have been settled long ago. The fire fighters would have their raise. There would have never been a Proposition B. Millions of taxpayer dollars would not have been wasted on legal fees in all the subsequent lawsuits. Our two groups of first responders would not be at each other’s throats. And ironically, the arbitration process would have almost certainly resulted in a much smaller raise than the one approved by voters in the Proposition B election.
This week the union once again offered to submit this dispute to a neutral, independent arbiter and Turner once again refused. Refusing this expeditious and fair procedure to put this interminable dispute behind us is simply incomprehensible.
Turner’s response I think gives us an insight to what is really going on here. It was “my door is open.” In other words, “now that I have won on declaring Proposition B unconstitutional, you come crawling to me and maybe I’ll give you a raise.” This dispute is no longer about what is fair. It is no longer about public safety. It is not about any budgetary considerations. It is about an egomaniacal mayor who wants fire fighters, who have had the audacity to stand up to him, to now grovel at his feet.
I shudder to think what another four years of this kind of leadership would do to our great City. Houstonians deserve better.
I am already working to build trust with the fire fighters. I hope and expect that I will be able to negotiate a fair and reasonable end to the dispute. But if that is not possible, I will certainly be willing to submit to a binding arbitration. I will also immediately end the litigation that threatens to unravel the state’s collective bargaining law which was put in place to protect citizens from strikes by public safety workers.
Perhaps most importantly though, I will do everything possible to heal the open wound between our two great first responder forces so that we can assure our citizens are safe, something that is increasingly coming into question as noted in this Channel 2 KPRC investigative story that aired earlier this week.
If you want a mayor who seeks to resolve disputes and not prolong them, who believes it is a waste of taxpayer money to sue our employees, who does not believe in pitting one group of employees against another, who believes that an effective leader does not demand respect, but instead earns it; then join our campaign. Use the buttons below to order bumper stickers, yard signs, volunteer or donate to our campaign.
[i] Turner has maintained that he offered the fire fighters 9.5% over three years. This alleged offer arose in connection with a June 2017 mediation to which the two sides agreed had agreed. What occurred at that mediation is in dispute. Turner said that on the day of mediation he emailed the 9.5% offer to the union. The union said the offer was made after the mediation concluded and had no specifics regarding the implementation of the raise. Because the parties are barred from discussing what occurred during the mediation, we do not know what offers were actually made during that mediation, but clearly an offer made without any details, by e-mail and after the mediation had concluded was a publicity stunt and not a good faith offer.