Austin Voters Approve Binding Arbitration Referendum for Fire Fighters

May 5 • 2021

After an intense campaign, Austin, TX Local 975 has won the ability to call on an impartial arbiter to settle future disputes that may arise while negotiating with the city, after the passage of Proposition A.

Proposition A, which passed by an impressive 81% to 19% margin on May 1, sends a clear message from Austin voters to city leaders. “Our community showed up and voted in support of their fire fighters,” says Local 975 President Bob Nicks. “We are grateful that voters recognized that binding arbitration and timely dispute resolution is closely tied to public safety and fire fighter safety and fulfills the promise of a fair and efficient Austin.”

“Congratulations to our brothers and sisters in Local 975,” says General President Ed Kelly. “Our members stood up and showed the voters why its important to give fire fighters a strong and fair voice at the bargaining table. The voters clearly made their support heard. Having binding arbitration will help keep our fire fighters safe on the job by creating a fairer resolution process to tough issues.”

The local began its campaign in earnest amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, safely gathering signatures to bring this important issue to the May 1 ballot. Following the signature petition drive, Local 975 coordinated with the IAFF to ensure that the message was clearly delivered to Austinites.

Local 975 members were fully engaged in the effort – from signature gathering all the way to election day,” says Nicks. “Everything we do as fire fighters is about saving lives and protecting property. We’re certain that passing Proposition A is going to save lives and help us keep Austin safe.”

“This win shows what this union can accomplish when we stick together and fight on the side of public safety,” says 11th District Vice President Sandy McGhee. “Binding arbitration will improve working conditions for Austin’s fire fighters and make the city safer.”

Early polling showed citizens supported Austin fire fighters and especially appreciated their role in several high-profile incidents over the past year. With IAFF assistance, the campaign contacted nearly 500,000 voters by through mail, online digital ads, traditional television and streaming video outlets.

The local also developed and leveraged a strong social media presence, along with prior relationships with community advocates, to spread their message organically, gaining numerous public endorsements along the way. This broad, bipartisan coalition of support for Austin fire fighters easily translated into support for Proposition A and ultimately led to a convincing victory for safety and fire fighters in Austin.