The local police union’s offer of meeting dates to proceed with contract negotiations still comes with the condition that the City of San Antonio drop its lawsuit challenging the police and fire union contracts’ 10-year evergreen clause.
Since the City of San Antonio filed a notice on Wednesday to appeal the district court’s December ruling against the City and continue to argue the evergreen clause is unconstitutional, it seems the two sides are still at an impasse. While the City is willing to resume talks, it’s not dropping its lawsuit and the police union isn’t coming to the table until the threat of litigation dissolves.
“When we agree to the terms of the contract, the lawsuit goes away,” Mayor Ivy Taylor stated in the City’s response to the union’s meeting proposal. “Until then, we will preserve the City’s legal options and take whatever actions are necessary to protect our taxpayers.”
San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA) representatives had proposed two meeting dates in late January and four in early- and mid-February, but with the Texas appellate deadline this weekend, the City filed a notice to appeal the district court’s ruling
According to the police union’s afternoon response, it considers the notice of appeal as continued threat of litigation.
According to the City, no legal briefs – or official appeal – will be filed for 60-90 days, and oral arguments would not be heard for six months. Mayor Ivy Taylor expressed confidence that the City and the police union would have enough time to negotiate in good faith for new collective bargaining agreement.
The lawsuit targets the 10-year evergreen clause in collective bargaining contracts that expired in 2014. The City claims existing pay and benefits could cause an unforeseen, unscheduled debt. The police and fire felt their positions strengthened in December after State District Judge Martha Tanner denied the City’s request for a lawsuit summary judgment. The fire union has yet to start collective bargaining negotiations with the City, which has extended several invites to talk.
Now that the City could proceed with an appeal if so inclined, SAPOA spokesman Greg Brockhouse said that was not part of the deal.
“Unfortunately, the union’s message was clear to the City. They will not negotiate while any lawsuit is present or the threat of litigation remains,” the police union stated just before noon Wednesday. “The City has chosen the legal route over working together at the negotiating table. When SAPOA proposed dates, it was very clear that the lawsuit needed to be removed before meeting. The City’s attorney chose to ignore that fact and is attempting to restart negotiations while suing police officers. It isn’t going to happen.”
In its prior news release, SAPOA stated that the City must decide whether to appeal its setback in court, suggesting the City could save taxpayers money by stopping its lawsuit altogether. Some City leaders, such as Council member Shirley Gonzales (D5), have suggested that the City at least delay its legal proceedings, if not end them entirely.
“The mayor clearly stated she would not finalize an appeal if we were back at the table,” SAPOA Michael Helle stated in a SAPOA press release sent on Wednesday morning, referring to Taylor’s public statement made on Dec. 10.
“We believe negotiating at the table protects the citizens of San Antonio,” he stated. “If the mayor feels the same way and her official statement was true, then how can she reject our offer of negotiation dates and continue suing police officers and their families?”
The City maintains that public safety expenses presently make up 66.5% of its fiscal year 2016 general fund and are growing rapidly, threatening to crowd out spending on basic yet vital City services, such as repairs to roads and sidewalks, and animal care.
In September, the police union walked away from labor talks, leaving on the negotiating table an offer that included 15.75% in pay increases over the next four years, no healthcare premiums for employees and an option to choose a consumer driven healthcare plan that also includes no premiums for employees’ dependents.
*Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor announces the City’s plan to move forward with its lawsuit against the police union contract’s evergreen clause on Oct. 1, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard Report archive.