The ‘evergreen clause’ in the San Antonio police contract, explained

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a weekly streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the free KSAT-TV app to stay up on the latest.

On May 1, San Antonio voters will determine whether the police union can continue to collectively bargain.

Proposition B is one of the most contentious and high-profile items on the May ballot. For years, there have been elements of the contract that have come under fire. Many of the complaints involve the disciplinary process for San Antonio police officers.

But there’s another aspect of the contract between the city and police union that made for a nasty, public battle that you just might remember: the so-called evergreen clause.

The “evergreen clause” in the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association’s contract dates back to 1988 -- 14 years after San Antonio voters approved collective bargaining for the union. The clause allowed the terms of the current contract to be extended up to 10 years if a new deal with the city couldn’t be reached.

The 1988 contract also offered San Antonio police officers some of the most impressive benefits in the state, according to reports.

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Fast forward to 2013: an analysis put together by the City of San Antonio predicted a budget crisis. The analysis said that spending on fire and police contracts would bankrupt the city if not reigned in.

The report helped fuel a two-year-long battle between the city and the fire and police unions.

In 2014, contract negotiations between the city and the police union began. And one of the big targets for the city to cut down on spending was health insurance.

At the time, police officers didn’t have to pay for insurance for themselves or their dependents. The city wanted to change this. The union put up a fight.

By the time the police contract expired that September, negotiations had reached a stalemate. But due to that evergreen clause, because the city and union had not made a deal on a new contract, police officers got to maintain their benefits without a new contract.

The fight dragged on for nearly two more years. In that time frame, the city sued over the evergreen clause, a district judge sided with the police union, and the union president released a video accusing the city manager of trying to make the union out to look like “greedy bastards.” To put it simply: the back-and-forth got ugly.

But in June of 2016, the police union and city finally agreed on a new contract. The new five-year deal reduced the evergreen clause to eight years. It also required officers to start paying health care premiums for their dependents.

That contract expires at the end of September. Negotiations for the new contract started this February. So far there has been no agreement. And with Prop B on the ballot, and the eight-year evergreen clause in place, a lot is still up in the air.

In our latest episode of KSAT Explains, we delve deep into Prop B on the May ballot and you can check it out here or in the video player below.

About the Authors

Penny De La Cruz started working at WKMG-TV in September 2021. Before joining News 6, Penny worked at KSAT 12 in San Antonio, Texas.

Valerie Gomez is lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. She began her career in 2014 and has been with KSAT since 2017. She helped create KSAT’s first digital-only newscast in 2018, and her work on KSAT Explains and various specials have earned her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media and multiple Emmy nominations.

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