Fire Union's Chris Steele Breaks Promise to Return to Contract Talks Within Seven Days of San Antonio Dropping Its Lawsuit

click to enlarge Fire Union Prez Chris Steele reads the union's proposed charter amendments at a recent press conference. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Fire Union Prez Chris Steele reads the union's proposed charter amendments at a recent press conference.
Fire union President Chris Steele's mantra over the past four years had been that he'd return to the bargaining table with the City within seven days of it dropping its lawsuit against the union.

On Nov. 29, San Antonio abandoned its suit over the so-called "evergreen clause" in the union's contract, meaning those days have come and gone. And all without a word from Steele.

City officials say they're still in the dark, and Steele didn't returned a phone call from the Current seeking comment.

The union repeatedly cited the lawsuit as its prime reason for refusing talks to replace its contract, which expired four years ago. That court case sought to erase a clause in the union contract that keeps union pay and benefits in place for 10 years after the current contract's expiration.

This summer, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the City's case, effectively shutting down its recourse in the courts.

"For months we have heard from Chris Steele and the union that they would come to the table within seven days after the City dropped the evergreen lawsuit," Jeff Coyle, San Antonio's director of government and public affairs, said in written statement. "We have done that. We are extremely disappointed they have not committed to moving forward. We remain ready to begin negotiations.

The union's apparent foot-dragging on new talks comes after it won a substantial victory in the November election. S.A. voters approved a pair of charter amendments backed by the union — one of which allows it to unilaterally force labor negotiations into arbitration and another that limits salary and tenure for future city managers.

On the same day the City dropped its suit, longtime City Manager Sheryl Sculley, an advocate of the hardline strategy against the union, announced her retirement.

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