Lawsuit: 10 Year Union Contract Extension Clause Is Illegal

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San Antonio city officials argued in Texas district court Tuesday that the current labor agreement they have with city law enforcement unions is illegal because of a 10 year automatically extension clause.

The labor contract extension can be found in numerous states, known as the evergreen clause. San Antonio claims it violates the Texas constitution. The lawsuit centers of a particular labor agreement formed between the city, the San Antonio Police Officers Association and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. Their contract will automatically extend for up to 10 years if the previous one expires and is not replaced. The lawsuit stalled but city leaders recently began pushing it forward.

“It’s clear the city does not like the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement it entered into,” firefighter union attorney Ricky Poole told the judge according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Poole asserted the issue is not constitutionality. Rather, city officials are just trying to back out of a contract they don’t like. Bernard, though, argues the clause violates the state constitution because it limits state power and the ability for it to functioning properly.

“The intent of our legal challenge to their evergreen clause is to, in the future, make sure you have two sides who are genuinely motivated to negotiate with each other,” City Spokesman Jeff Coyle told the local affiliate of ABC News. ​”Not one side who says ‘Oh, I have a ten year extension. I’ll just wait this out as long as I have to.”

The union vowed not to come back to negotiate a new contract until the case is done or the lawsuit is dropped. Visiting Judge Martha Tanner oversaw the hearing. Visiting judges are less likely to face local political pressure.

“That is a restriction on a government’s ability to exercise its governmental functions, and as a result, the contract should be deemed to be terminable at will,” former city attorney Michael Bernard said according to WOAI.
After the hearing Bernard told reporters he believes the case will make it to Texas Supreme Court. Both sides have said they will appeal the case if they lose.
 Some of the unions involved note that Bernard and City Manager Sheryl Sculley both signed the agreement but now claim its illegal. The unions said it would be unethical for Bernard to agree to an agreement that he thought was illegal. Evergreen clauses can be found in numerous states. They are legal under the National Labor Relations Act but may violate certain state constitutions.

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