Ping-Pong “me too” provisions in fire fighter and police collective bargaining agreements places City in the middle.

 

CITY OF BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS v. MARCO LONGORIA AND THE BROWNSVILLE FIRE FIGHTERS’ ASSOCIATION, 13-12-00224-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, April 3, 2014)

This is a collective bargaining case where the fire fighter’s association attempted to invoke a provision allowing it to the same wage increases provided to the police department after the PD settled a separate lawsuit. After a bench trial a judgment was rendered for the Brownsville Fire Fighters’ Association (“BFFA”) and the City appealed.

In what the court terms the “me too” provision of the contract, if the City “voluntarily negotiates” an across-the-board wage increase for FLSA non-exempt employees, the bargaining unit shall be granted the same improvement. Both the PD Association and BFFA have similar “me too” clauses. In 2007, the PD Association sued the City asserting the “me too” provision entitled them to the same rate increase provided to the fire fighters. The suit went to trial and the City lost. Afterwards, the City negotiated a settlement for less than the judgment. The settlement provided for a certain increase for police officers. In response the BFFA sued the City asserting the settlement of the PD lawsuit entitled the fire fighters to a raise. The City argued the settlement was not a “voluntary negotiation” since it would never have entered into one had it not lost a trial. The 13th Court of Appeals disagreed noting both parties to the settlement made concessions so sufficient evidence existed it was voluntary. The City next asserted the settlement was not for an “across-the-board” adjustment. However, the court noted the term means across every group or classification, not that every adjustment must be at a uniform rate or a strict rank-to-rank comparator. Finally, the City argued that the PD settlement was its own “me too” lawsuit attempting to bring the PD association in line with BFFA. To say that BFFA now gets a raise due to the settlement to bring PD into line with BFFA is an absurd result. The court dismissed this argument simply noting the plain language of the “me too” clauses ties the increases to fiscal years, not the origin or circumstances surrounding the increase. As a result, the trial court judgment is affirmed.

[Comment: So I guess the PD association will sue next for the increase the BFFA received and since it’s impractical to resolve many of these types of disputes within the same fiscal year, the BFFA when then sue once the PD association’s next suit is resolved and so on, and so forth, etc.].

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Rodriguez, and Justice Garza.  Opinion by Justice Rodriguez. The attorneys listed for the City are Hon. Carlos Villarreal,  Ricardo J. Navarro, and  Alan T. Ozuna.  The attorney listed for the Association is B. Craig Deats.