Did labor 'fire'-wall keep DNC from Houston?

Monday, March 11, 2019
DNC 2020 chooses Milwaukee over Houston
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Millions of your tax dollars were on the line as Houston fought to attract Democrats to town for the party's next national convention.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As Milwaukee celebrates its choice as the site for next summer's Democratic National Convention, there is reporting to suggest Houston's labor issues with firefighters over voter-approved Prop B may have steered the convention away.

Mayor Sylvester Turner told city council members last week he would have to layoff as many as 375 firefighters to pay for firefighter raises approved by the Prop B Parity measure. It was just the latest in a string of issues to pop up between the mayor and the local firefighters union. The Houston Professional Firefighters Association is a part of an international firefighters union influential in Democratic politics.

The New York Times reported Monday afternoon that Houston's home to the energy sector could've been bad optics, but the firefighters promised to be a persistent hurdle:

"Houston had faced another complication. Harold Schaitberger, the head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, has been in a prolonged battle with the mayor, Sylvester Turner, over firefighter pay. In an interview last week, Mr. Schaitberger said he had warned the D.N.C. that he would consider establishing a union picket line if Democrats located their convention there. Tom Perez knows, for whatever it's worth, that it's not going to be pretty if they go to Houston," Mr. Schaitberger said. In recent days, the mayor of Houston has announced plans to lay off hundreds of firefighters in order to fund a voter-approved measure to increase firefighter pay in the city. Mr. Schaitberger accused him of "an old-fashioned double cross" and "just being a jerk."

RELATED: Houston mayor lays out plan for Prop B firefighter raises

A picket line outside the Houston convention would have posed difficult choices for a party trying to win support of labor unions.

The Wall Street Journal's political reporter tweeted similarly:

Tony Buzbee, one of Turner's opponents in the upcoming mayor's race, commented.

"The mayor is imploding. He is bleeding support and, at this point, I don't think he is electable," Buzbee said. "In light of the fact that the DNC went elsewhere, it is clear those outside of Houston see what kind of mess this mayor has created. When will this end? It will end with strong, independent leadership not beholden to political donors."

Bill King, another of Turner's opponents told ABC13 it was obviously a handicap for Houston to get the bid.

"It's hard to tell if it was the deciding factor, but it clearly impacted the selection," King said. "Turner obviously handicapped our bid by starting this fight with labor. It's bigger than firefighters. He's sued to declare collective bargaining unconstitutional in Texas, and we're seeing the collateral damage in that as the DNC heads to Milwaukee."

SEE ALSO: Protest over firefighters stops business at Houston City Council

Mayor Turner's office sent reporters links to recently reported articles suggesting DNC Chair Tom Perez always favored Milwaukee.

Turner's press secretary wrote reporters, "Milwaukee has always been a favorite of DNC Chair Perez, despite anyone's claim that Prop B was the deciding factor. Mayor Turner spoke with Perez this morning and Perez never mentioned Prop B. In fact, members of the site selection committee confirmed to the mayor that they wanted to come to Houston, but Perez always favored Milwaukee. "

The statement from Turner's office was sent with these links:

Top Miami Democrat blasts DNC's 'massive' convention delay

One Miami Democrat involved in discussions about the convention said, "The fix is in for Milwaukee. And Perez is just trying to find a way to justify it."

Miami began a last-ditch convention push last month amid rumors that Milwaukee was the favored city. The governors of Wisconsin and Illinois have weighed in on behalf of Milwaukee. Neither Miami nor Houston are in states with Democratic governors.

Why Miami won't be hosting the 2020 Democratic convention (and Milwaukee will)

"I can't imagine Milwaukee winning this on the merits," Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola said recently. "We checked all the boxes, and (Perez) has been trying to find a reason not to come here."

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