AUSTIN – Today, attorneys from the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Goldwater Institute delivered oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Texas in Borgelt v. Austin Firefighters Association. The case examines the constitutionality of public sector labor unions’ “release time” scheme, which forces taxpayers to pay union organizers’ salaries and finance their activities.

Under release time, government agencies “release” employees from the jobs for which they were hired and instead assign them to work for their private union. While on release time, these government employees engage in political and lobbying activities, negotiate higher wages and benefits, solicit new union members, attend union conferences and meetings, and file costly grievances against their public employer — all while receiving full government pay, benefits, and retirement. This costs taxpayers across the country tens of millions of dollars a year.

“The Texas Constitution’s ‘gift clause’ prohibits municipalities from granting public money to private individuals or associations without serving a public purpose, which is exactly what is happening here,” said lead attorney Robert Henneke, executive director and general counsel at TPPF.

“The ‘gift clause’ requires that public payments to private entities be for a public purpose, that the government maintain control over its expenditures, and that the government receive fair value for taxpayers,” said lead attorney Jon Riches, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “Release time meets none of these requirements because it’s provided as a blank check for union bosses to use whenever and however they see fit.”

To watch the full hearing, click here.


Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility. The Center for the American Future defends the Constitution through legal opposition to government overreach. The Center launches legal challenges at the administrative, district, and appellate court levels on behalf of ordinary people whose lives, liberty, and property are threatened by government action in defiance of the Constitution.

The Goldwater Institute is a free-market public policy research and litigation organization committed to empowering all Americans to live freer, happier lives, The Goldwater Institute accomplishes tangible results for liberty by working in state courts, legislatures, and communities nationwide to advance, defend, and strengthen the freedom guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the fifty states.