Supreme court ruling strengthens union rights for firefighters

July 8, 2024

Texas Supreme Court affirms union business leave provision

As reported by the IAFF, the Texas Supreme Court has upheld the union business leave provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of Austin Local 975.

The court’s decision supports the rights of International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) members and sets a precedent for union affiliates nationwide.

The case was initiated by taxpayers with the support of the Goldwater Institute, challenging the provision as a violation of the Texas Constitution’s ‘gift clause.’ However, in a 6-3 ruling, the court validated the provision, highlighting its role in promoting equitable labor practices and firefighter safety.

General President Edward Kelly expressed the IAFF’s stance on the ruling: “We go wherever the fight is.

“This attack, backed by the anti-union Goldwater Institute, was not about protecting taxpayers.

“It was about weakening Labor, plain and simple.

“Our affiliate leaders need to be able to do their jobs and this decision guarantees they will be able to do just that.

“We were proud to support Local 975 in this fight.

“This win benefits not only our members and the Austin community they serve, but working people across Texas.”

Legal counsel emphasizes importance of ruling

Peter Leff, General Counsel of the IAFF, emphasized the importance of the ruling in recognizing union business leave as essential for union leaders.

He stated: “The Texas Supreme Court’s strong language on the public interest and activities of unions and union officers in this decision bodes well.

“It underscores that engaging in union activities is a matter of public concern.

“This victory is a testament to the tireless efforts of our union members who work daily to protect lives and property.

“While opponents may continue to challenge these rights, this ruling sends a clear message that union activities are fundamental to preserving workers’ rights and ensuring public safety.”

Leff highlighted the potential impact of the ruling on other jurisdictions facing similar challenges.

The decision reaffirms the vital role of union activities in collective bargaining, addressing grievances, and advocating for safety standards, benefiting both union members and the public.

Local 975 celebrates victory for labor rights

Bob Nicks, President of Local 975, celebrated the Supreme Court ruling as a major triumph for firefighter labor rights in Texas.

He acknowledged the extensive support from the IAFF and its legal team throughout the lengthy legal battle.

“This case spanned many years, and the IAFF, along with our IAFF-assigned attorneys, supported us throughout,” Nicks said.

“During extensive depositions and cross-examinations in court, I couldn’t have been more prepared.

“While Local 975 is a large IAFF Local, we simply lacked the resources to fight such a lengthy and costly legal battle alone.

“The IAFF taking the lead in defending Texas firefighters’ collective bargaining rights is just one example of how the IAFF has our back.”

Nicks also noted the crucial role of the IAFF’s Guardian Policy, which provides direct legal representation to union leaders facing retaliation for union activities or public advocacy.

This policy was instrumental in supporting Local 975’s efforts and contributed to the favorable outcome of the case.

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