Negotiations between the San Antonio Professionals Firefighters Association (left) and the City of San Antonio are ongoing.
Negotiators for the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association and the City of San Antonio meet on Feb. 2. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The City of San Antonio and firefighters union representatives have selected a third arbitrator to serve on a panel that will decide the fate of the City’s labor contract with the union.

Retired Judge John J. Specia Jr., who stepped down from the 225th District Court in 2006, will serve on the three-member panel with the City’s selection, local attorney Phil Pfeiffer, and labor attorney Michael Tedesco of Portland, Oregon, representing the union.

Specia specializes in mediation, arbitration, and private judging, according to a joint news release Friday afternoon.

“Judge Specia has dedicated more than three decades of his life to public service,” stated City Attorney Andy Segovia. “He has an understanding of the issues that the City of San Antonio faces and will bring a fair approach to the arbitration process. We look forward to presenting to the arbitration panel and getting a contract that is fair to both our taxpayers and our firefighters.”

Contract negotiations between the City and union have been deadlocked since 2014, when the existing contract expired. A 10-year evergreen clause keeps most of the terms of that contract in place but does not include some pay increases for firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Public negotiation sessions, then private mediation sessions, broke down this summer over disagreements over health care, retroactive pay, and other key terms. The union invoked its right to call for binding arbitration in July; it won that right through a public vote in November last year.

“San Antonio’s firefighters are eager to present their case to Judge Specia and the rest of the arbitration panel,” stated Ricky J. Poole, general counsel for the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association.  “Judge Specia’s impressive credentials speak for themselves, and we are confident that upon review of the evidence, the panel will deliver a decision that addresses the significant economic and health-related issues so important to firefighters while maintaining the strong financial position of the City.”

Arbitration is expected to take about two weeks and will begin in early December, according to the release.

“Once the arbitration is closed, the panel will reach a decision which will establish a new binding collective bargaining agreement,” it said.

Both City and union officials have told the Rivard Report that it wants the hearings to be open to the public, but that will be up to the arbitration panel.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org