WHEREAS Houston is now the largest city in the United States that does not provide such pay parity between police and firefighters;
WHEREAS as a result of Mayor Lee Brown ending the City of Houston’s policy of pay parity for firefighters and police officers in 2001, Houston’s firefighters now earn considerably less than their counterparts elsewhere in Texas, with Houston paying its first-year firefighters 24% less than San Antonio, 33% less than Austin, 43% less than Dallas, and 54% less than Baytown;
WHEREAS in 2004 a revenue cap was pushed by Mayor Bill White upon the City of Houston in order to placate fiscal conservatives, dramatically restricting the amount of revenue the City can raise through taxation;
WHEREAS Mayor Sylvester Turner was elected in 2015, on a moderately progressive platform with the endorsement of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 341;
WHEREAS Mayor Sylvester Turner succeeded in passing a pension ‘reform’ bill, SB2190, in the 85th Texas Legislature of 2017, which using the slogan of “shared sacrifice” took away pension benefits of approximately $140,000 per Firefighter, $90,000 per Police Officer and $45,000 per municipal worker, as well as created pension obligation bonds investing $750 Million in the HPD pension, $250 Million in the Municipal Workers Pension and $0 in the HFD pension.
WHEREAS the city was unwilling to negotiating a contract through collective bargaining with the HPFFA in 2016, and firefighters’ demands for fair pay led to the creation of a ballot initiative, ultimately known as Proposition B, which if passed would require the city to restore pay parity;
WHEREAS more than 32,000 Houston voters signed a petition to successfully place Proposition B on the ballot during July of 2017, and the city was forced by a lawsuit to count the ballot signatures by HPFFA lawsuit to be place on the ballot of the November 2018 election;
WHEREAS in the November 2018 election, 290,000 Houston voters approved the firefighters’ proposal, comprising 59% of the vote;
WHEREAS the Firefighters proposed to phase in the cost of these raises over 3 years through a collective bargaining contract with the City of Houston;
WHEREAS the Mayor could have easily placed revenue cap repeal on the same ballot, and worked in solidarity with the HPFFA to at once build public support for raising firefighter pay and remove the city’s crippling financial constraints;
WHEREAS the Mayor and the City of Houston have yet to implement pay parity, have demanded a five year phase-in with incomplete data that excludes full parity with HPD over incentive pay, and have responded with multiple plans for layoffs and closures, initially to lay off 378 firefighters, close six fire stations, and take two ladder trucks out of service, this week to layoff 287 firefighters and take more than a dozen apparatus out of service;
WHEREAS the Mayor and the City of Houston refuse to swear in 68 fire cadets at the Val Janke Training Facility, denying them civil service protections, and have sent them pink slips, indicating they will be fired this summer, while at the same time swearing in more than 130 police cadets;
WHEREAS the Mayor has further filed a lawsuit that, if successful, would effectively render union collective bargaining rights unconstitutional;
WHEREAS reactionary mayoral candidates such as the Trump fundraiser, Tony Buzbee, and former mayoral candidate, Bill King, have made overtures to the IAFF without expressing solidarity with the broader labor movement;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Houston Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America will adopt the following positions:
- Houston DSA joins IAFF and HFT to denounce the mayor’s legal challenge to collective bargaining rights;
- We oppose any plan by COH to cut firefighters or close fire stations, and ask Mayor Turner and the City Council to reject any budget that cuts fire and EMS services to Houstonians;
- We demand the mayor return to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract that phases in pay parity;
- We demand an end to the revenue cap that disproportionately benefits the few wealthiest property owners at the detriment of most Houstonians and we demand political leadership from the mayor’s office and our elected officials.
- We call for a true progressive challenger to all three mayoral candidates, who will fight for labor rights for all in the City of Houston.
- We reject any plans to privatize fire or EMS service.