San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association Faces More Challenges

First Amendment rights are a concept most Americans hold in high regard. It can be difficult to imagine not having these certain rights, especially when it comes to advocating for something you believe in. Unfortunately, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) has faced many hardships involving the city of San Antonio in the last year, one of which involves a lawsuit over the group’s First Amendment rights. Now, almost a full year after a vote last November, the city wants a federal judge to step in and dismiss the union’s suit altogether.

Just last year, SAPFA sued the city of San Antonio in federal court, alleging city officials violated union representatives’ First Amendment rights. The allegations came after the city sought to enforce a “free speech area” policy during SAPFA’s San Antonio First Initiative in order to hinder its efforts to gather signatures for two union-backed charter amendments SAPFA eventually won. These “free speech areas” were small and located far from where the firefighters could interact with residents according to the union.

In addition to these “free speech areas,” SAPFA alleges city officials tried to intimidate its representatives by posting notices at the libraries where they were originally petitioning. These notices stated that unidentified petitioners would try to gather signatures from them and that citizens should be allowed to read a petition prior to signing it, and to not feel pressured into it.

With the passage of the charter amendments, San Antonio voters capped the city managers’ tenure and pay, and also gave the firefighters union sole power to send contract negotiations into binding arbitration. The union sought such measures after firefighters had gone years without a contract. Now, nine months later, the city wants a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit completely.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez has not yet ruled on the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. If Judge Rodriguez allows the suit to move forward, the union plans to continue to fight the city for its legal rights.

Protecting Your Constitutional Rights

 At Feldman & Feldman, your constitutional rights are important to us. We fiercely advocate for clients whose rights have been infringed upon. If you feel your rights may have been violated, contact us today to see how we can help.

San Antonio Firefighters Win Placement for Ballot Initiative

Feldman & Feldman is representing the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) with regard to the San Antonio First Initiative, successfully gaining placement for the initiative on the November ballot. Recently, the city had restricted SAPFA’s free speech in promoting the initiative, but despite this, SAPFA was successful in getting the initiative in front of voters this fall. On August 16th, 2018, the San Antonio City Council voted to put the San Antonio First Initiative on the November ballot for voters to decide its fate.

The San Antonio First Initiative

The San Antonio First Initiative supported by SAPFA is composed of several parts, all of which aim to help shift power back into the hands of voters. The initiative includes a salary cap and term limits for the position of city manager, allows for arbitration in collective bargaining, and lessens the prerequisites for proposing changes and actions against the city council and the city’s charter.

SAPFA faced incredible hardships when promoting the San Antonio first initiative because the city began to enforce a “free speech area” policy to hinder SAPFA’s efforts. Enforcement of this policy was found unconstitutional because the SAPFA and its members have the right to freedom of speech as guaranteed in both the U.S. and Texas constitutions. In response to the city’s enforcement of this policy, Feldman & Feldman filed a lawsuit on behalf of SAPFA to protect their free speech.

In addition to proving the unconstitutionality of the “free speech area” policy, Feldman & Feldman and SAPFA also overcame a last minute attempt by a political action committee to prevent the city council from voting on whether or not the initiative would appear on the November ballot. The political action committee filed a restraining order to prevent the issue from going before the city council, but the restraining order was denied the day before city council members met to determine ballot initiatives.

SAPFA is thrilled to officially have the initiative on the ballot, as its sole intention was to get the issue in front of voters so they can decide whether or not they believe the initiative will be good for the city and its inhabitants.

Protecting Your Rights Under The Constitution

At Feldman & Feldman, we fiercely advocate for clients whose constitutional rights have been infringed upon. We are honored to represent San Antonio firefighters and help them protect their constitutional rights as they work to make the city better. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact us today to see how we can help.

Feldman & Feldman File Lawsuit On Behalf Of San Antonio Firefighters

This past April, members of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) had a special delivery for the city clerk’s office. SAPFA members and their president delivered over 100,000 signatures in support of several petitions they named the “San Antonio First Initiative.” Unfortunately, the city violated citizens’ first amendment rights by restricting SAPFA from exercising its constitutional right to free speech. Feldman & Feldman has filed a lawsuit on behalf of SAPFA to protect their free speech rights under the Texas Constitution.

San Antonio First Initiative

The San Antonio First Initiative is composed of several petitions taking aim to: (1) limit the salary and length of employment of the city manager and increase the number of city council votes required to approve city manager contracts; (2) reduce the number of signatures required for a petition to change the City’s ordinances from 75,000 to 20,000 qualified voters and expand the amount of time allotted to gather those signatures from 40 to 120 days; and (3) require the City to agree to arbitration (as opposed to pursuing litigation) in the event an impasse is reached in collective bargaining. In response to the initiative, San Antonio Mayer Ron Nirenberg held a press conference expressing his strong disapproval of the initiative.

Impeding Free Speech

In response to SAPFA collecting signatures, the City of San Antonio began enforcing a “free speech area” policy to hinder the circulation of SAPFA’s petitions. Following directives from their superiors, including City Attorney Andrew Segovia, City personnel instructed petition circulators at multiple locations that they could not gather signatures near the entryways of public facilities. Instead, petition circulators were only allowed to gather signatures within designated “free speech areas,” areas of public property located far from foot traffic.

Despite being compatible with “a full range of freedom of speech activities,” petition circulators were prevented from collecting signatures and expressing their free speech. Petition circulators were routinely asked to move into “free speech areas” far removed from the public. When petition circulators protested their rights were being violated, they were threatened with arrest.

Free Speech Under The Texas Constitution

Under the Texas Constitution, any individual acting under the color of law who deprives a citizen of any rights, privileges, and immunities granted under the United States Constitution will be liable in an action at law. The mayor, city attorney, and other government personnel were acting in their official capacities to deprive the SAPFA of its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The city not only interfered with the expression of free speech, but it also retaliated against SAPFA and petition circulators for their expression. The Texas Constitution is clear, “no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.”

Feldman & Feldman is proud to help SAPFA exercise and protect its rights under both the United States and Texas Constitutions. We are fighting for a preliminary and permanent injunction against arbitrary “free speech areas” not just for the SAPFA, but for every citizen.

Protecting Texans

At Feldman & Feldman, we believe no one should have their constitutional rights infringed upon by another party. We work to protect Texans. If you believe your rights are being infringed upon, contact us today.