Local NewsBeto O’Rourke Endorses San Antonio’s Prop B to End Collective Bargaining for Police

As a city councilman in El Paso, O'Rourke fought police union contracts he considered excessive. He joins Julian Castro in supporting Prop B.
April 22, 2021
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Beto O’Rourke is the latest high-profile figure to endorse Proposition B in San Antonio, which would end collective bargaining power for the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD).

The former El Paso city councilman, congressman, and senatorial-turned-presidential candidate has joined former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in calling for an end to the law characterized by Fix SAPD — the group that put the proposition on the ballot — as an undue protection for San Antonio cops.

“I stand with the people of San Antonio who want to make sure that we support good police officers and protect the public by holding bad officers accountable,” O’Rourke stated.

“We shouldn’t have to bargain for police accountability, it should be guaranteed. Vote for Proposition B on May 1.”

The local ballot proposition has become a political football, fetching criticism from Republicans as prominent as Governor Greg Abbott, who called Prop B the first step to defunding the city’s police department.

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By passing Prop B, San Antonians would opt the city out of a statewide law that cities can choose to approve. The law, meant to avoid strikes, is a trade-off that gives police and firefighters’ unions the power to bargain collectively but prohibits strikes. It only applies in cities that have voted to adopt it, such as San Antonio and El Paso, where O’Rourke fought it in his city council days.

In short, passing the proposition would weaken the SAPD union and end the current rule that requires the city to bargain with it instead of using a “meet-and-confer” method popular among other cities. It would also end the ban on police strikes.

During O’Rourke’s time on the El Paso City Council, the city faced a threat of rising property tax rates, higher garbage fees, and sextupled ambulance fees that the city manager blamed on required pay raises for police and firefighters. O’Rourke voted against the contract that gave El Paso police required annual raises. Later, on the congressional campaign trail, O’Rourke would call organized labor “one of the most important developments over the course of American history” but said “there is a difference when you have collective bargaining in the public sector.”

“I was deeply disappointed in, especially with the police unions, intransigence when we were in tough budget straits because we were in the depth of a national recession that was affecting El Paso, we didn’t want to lay anybody off, and the police union had negotiated a contract for themselves that the city council, minus my vote… had agreed to, that gave them guaranteed raises, merit raises, step increases, and a very rich benefits program while everyday El Pasoans that I represent… were going broke,” O’Rourke said in 2011.

“Frankly, I still have some problems with the power that police and fire collective bargaining contracts have.”

Early voting for Prop B began on April 19.

Below is the text of the proposition:

Repeal of the adoption of the state law applicable to City of San Antonio police officers that establishes collective bargaining if a majority of the affected employees favor representation by an employees association, preserves the prohibition against strikes and lockouts, and provides penalties for strikes and lockouts.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.

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