Statewide Police Lobby Kicks Out Medics for Opposing Save Austin Now

CLEAT blackballs Austin EMS union for standing against failed Prop A

Selena Xie, president of Austin EMS Association, in 2021 (Photo by John Anderson)

While the city enters the home stretch of its search for a new chief for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services (above), the union representing front-line medics and its president Selena Xie have come under unabashed and unprecedented attack from the state's most powerful police lobby, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT.

The statewide group had included the Austin EMS Assoc­ia­tion (like other fire and EMS unions around Texas) as an affiliate, which gives the medics access to the Capitol as well as legal support in contract talks (which are underway now) and employee grievances. But not anymore! The CLEAT board voted unanimously to disaffiliate with AEMSA after the union's political action committee opted to campaign against Save Austin Now's proposed police staffing initiative, which failed badly at the polls as Proposition A last November. The Austin Police Association and CLEAT campaigned assertively for the SAN measure, and CLEAT says AEMSA was not transparent about its efforts to the contrary.

In a Jan. 13 letter to AEMSA members, CLEAT President Marvin Ryals makes no attempt to hide the rationale for his board's decision. "It is clear to all of us that the actions of your elected president [Xie] intentionally caused harm to the rank-and-file police officers and their local union [APA] who were actively campaigning for increased staffing, doubling of officer training, and overall better working conditions," Ryals wrote. He later adds that Xie's actions made AEMSA "a tool of Mayor Steve Adler and police hater Greg Casar," and that members who continue to pay dues directly to CLEAT will continue to have access to its legal team.

The public breakup could have been timed to be as painful as possible, in the middle of labor talks, but AEMSA is using its own funds to retain its lead negotiator with the city. In their own letter to union members, Xie and the AEMSA board write that, "Historically, we have never sought approval by CLEAT for our previous political endorsements. For years, all parties understood that we at AEMSA were free to make the political decisions necessary to protect our medics. Prop A was no different, and, as always, we left this conversation at the local level."

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