This week, the Harris County Deputies’ Organization, the union representing Harris County Sheriff’s deputies, announced their plan to ask voters to grant them collective bargaining rights to better advocate for higher wages.

According to local reporting, the push would give the organization, with over 3,000 members, the right to collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions. The union says they are paid roughly 20 percent below agencies of similar size.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, up for reelection, told Fox 26 Houston he would support the union’s effort. 

“Our agency works closely with the Harris County Deputies’ Organization and I support collective bargaining. Our deputies deserve the right to negotiate in good faith over the terms and conditions of their employment.”

Under Chapter 174 of the Texas Local Government Code, police and firefighters may petition their jurisdictions for collective bargaining. They must deliver a petition to order an election and then a majority of the voters have to approve it. 

In a 2004 opinion, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott clarified that this provision does apply to counties and sheriff’s deputies after a dispute in Bexar County,

We must conclude that Chapter 174 of the Local Government Code applies to counties and deputy sheriffs and that deputy sheriffs are ‘police officers’ within its scope. 

Chapter 174 of the Local Government Code, The Fire and Police Employee Relations Act, applies to counties and deputy sheriffs. 

The Deputies’ organization hopes to bring an item to voters no later than 2025. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.