I am happy to report that at the time of printing we have secured a contract with the City and it has passed the ratification vote by the membership with 96 percent approval!!
That is the highest approval percentage in HPOU history. We at the Union were extremely pleased to see that the overwhelming majority of officers saw what we saw in our finished product – that this was a great contract that continues to move the ball forward for all of us and keeps us extremely competitive in the market place.
Despite the many outside forces pushing against us receiving such a deal, we continued to push forward to insure the 5,200 members and their families receive a pay raise, four percent in July 2019, three percent in July 2020, and keep the benefits that we have fought over the years to obtain.
I must thank Mayor Turner for having the courage to negotiate a contract and not hold us all hostage, pending the result of Prop B. It’s a testament to him that he not hold the HPOU and the brave men and women of the Houston Police Department responsible for the actions of the leadership of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Union.
A tremendous amount of work goes into these contracts and the ratification process. I would like to thank the negotiating team and the HPOU Board who all worked around the clock keeping the HPOU open for the vote and answering any questions the membership had about the new contract.
The contract now goes before City Council for their ratification vote. It appears at this time that the vote will occur on Oct. 3 and of course we will send out notifications by Eblast and push notification on the HPOU App upon passage or if there is a change to the date of the vote.
Although I have written on this topic for several months with early voting and Election Day looming (Oct. 22 and Nov. 6), I feel the need to once again go over the facts about Prop B and just how detrimental it will be to both the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department.
If passed, Prop B, the proposition brought forward by the fire union (interestingly enough, they have now changed their tune and say citizens gathered these signatures, not them) would mandate that the City give them pay increase across all ranks and incentives to make them equal with us. This would result in a 25 percent boost in the very first year, 29 percent in the first year if our contract is approved and a total of 32 percent when you account for our other three percent.
No one in this organization or in the private sector gets a 29 percent raise in one year and no business or municipality could possibly afford this. I have received these numbers directly from the finance director of the City. To be fair to the firefighters, I have asked them on numerous occasions (email proof) to share what they believe it will cost. We have always believed in being fair here at the HPOU and I would have shared both the City’s numbers and the firefighters’ numbers if they ever provided me with them. To this date they have not provided me what they believe it will cost. They claim the cost question is too broad in scope.
The fact of the matter is that this is a self-imposed crisis. Back in 2014 the firefighters voted down a one-year four percent raise by 93 percent! Now they refuse to accept the 9.5 percent over three years that the mayor has offered. And please don’t listen to the propaganda being spewed, I have personally seen the mayor offer this deal at Council, at townhall meetings, and even directly on Twitter.
So, to be clear, the firefighters have turned down 13.5 percent over the last four years. Do you know what percentage they are behind their market counterparts? Fifteen percent!
This is what happens when you keep turning down raises – you fall behind like this. Which brings me to my next point: it is completely illogical for them to compare themselves to us. They should compare themselves to their market counter parts in the Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth fire departments, just like we compare HPD officers to our market counterparts of police departments.
We do not perform the same job functions; therefore, we should be compared to the individuals who do. I will not go into the laundry list of the differences in our jobs because you already know them and, frankly, my article would carry on for an entire book. The fire union needs to get back to the table and negotiate a pay raise, just like EVERYONE ELSE.
If Prop B passes, there will likely be lawsuits filed to stop the City from having to spend the well over $100 million per year this will cost. If those legal challenges fail, it will be catastrophic for public safety here in Houston. About 850 firefighters will have to be laid off to foot the bill as well as effect a complete re-organization of the fire department to better reflect the services they actually provide.
Currently 80 percent of HFD calls are medical-related. Even with the layoffs and reorganization they will not get the necessary funding. This means the costs bleed into other City departments, including the Houston Police Department.
I won’t bemoan the point of how short we already are and that we are just starting to climb the Mt. Everest that is our staffing crisis, but we cannot afford to lose a single cadet, let alone all of our cadet classes to pay for parity. We need the academy running at full capacity in order to keep up with attrition and continue to add 100 police officers a year over that attrition. Even though it is not a massive increase, which we need, we can at least provide some much-needed back up on the streets and not have our detectives smothered with cases.
Here at the HPOU we are doing everything within our power to defeat Prop B. This includes radio and TV commercials, social media, op ed pieces, attending every townhall meeting and meeting with leaders across the City to educate everyone on just how dangerous this is.
I am asking everyone to be ALL IN on this. Please talk to your friends, family, neighbors and, frankly, anyone you know that lives in the City and ask them to vote AGAINST Prop B. This is an uphill battle, but I would much rather go down fighting and know we did everything in our power to defeat this, than just roll over and allow others to decide our fate. We will be sending out emails and push notifications on updates and ways you may be able to help. So please keep an eye out. There is also an additional information sheet in this issue of the Badge and Gun.
As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call away, text (832-283-9492), or you can also reach me at the following: email (firstname.lastname@example.org), message on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi).