August 2013

Shelby County School Board Votes to Recognize SEIU, Other Unions

SEIU members celebrate the passage of a resolution by the Shelby County School Board recognizing their union rights.

SEIU members celebrate the passage of a resolution by the Shelby County School Board recognizing their union rights.

By a vote of 16-4, the Shelby County school board voted on Tuesday to support a resolution that recognizes a half-dozen unions – including SEIU Local 205 – as the representatives of approximately 18,000 public employees working for the recently formed Shelby County Unified School District.

“We are so glad to continue to have representation by our Union,” said Brenda Shields, a cafeteria manager who has been working in Memphis schools for 28 years. “There are a lot of issues facing school employees and it is important that employees are able to get these problems addressed.”

“If we are not given the training and the tools we need to do our jobs and our concerns aren’t taken seriously by administration, then we can’t provide the best educational environment that our children deserve”, said Clannon Williams, a plant engineer. “We are glad to continue to have a voice on the job.”

“This is a step in the right direction for Shelby County’s public employees and we look forward to working in good faith with school administrators to resolve employee issues,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205, which represents cafeteria managers and plant managers in the district. “I want to offer my sincere thanks to the Baptist Ministerial Association for their advocacy as well our union brothers and sisters from AFSCME Local 1733, UAW Local 3036, the Memphis Shelby County Education Association, and the Craft Employees Association – all of whom demonstrated amazing solidarity throughout this long struggle.”

The problems for school employees began nearly two years ago when the Memphis City School Board surrendered its charter to operate the city’s school system, eventually forcing the city schools and Shelby County Schools to merge into a new Unified School District. While the city schools had a long history of working with organized labor, the county schools did not, causing much controversy and confusion for employees.

The resolution was offered by Dr. Jeff Warren and also drew the support of Chris Caldwell, Snowden Carruthers, Joe Clayton, Diane George, Tomeka Hart, Martavius Jones, Teresa Jones, Sara Lewis, Oscar Love, Patrice Robinson, Dr. Kenneth Whalum Jr., Dr. Freda Williams, Mike Wissman, Kevin Woods and chairman Billy Orgel. Mary Anne Gibson, Betty Mallott, David Picker and David Reaves voted no.

Read the full story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription required)

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SEIU Local 205 Members Applaud Metro Council Resolution to Invest in Vital Services

Bill sponsor Erica Gilmore (left), with SEIU members Mary Miller and Joan Parmer.

Bill sponsor Erica Gilmore (left), with SEIU members Mary Miller and Joan Parmer.

SEIU Local 205 members stood together and applauded Nashville’s Metro Council action on RS2013-824, which calls on Congress to end the sequester and balance the federal budget in a way that will create jobs and strengthen our communities.

The resolution is another way citizens and elected officials are coming together to invest in vital services, like Head Start, which took a $400 million cut this year due to the sequester. The Chattanooga City Council approved a similar resolution a week earlier.

“Cuts to Head Start, Meals On Wheels, and job education programs are hurting our community,” said Linda Epps, an employee of Metro Action Commission working in the Head Start program. “These days, Congress doesn’t do anything unless we force them to. We thank the Nashville Metro Council for taking a stand for our children and seniors.”

In March of this year, $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts went into effect. These cuts, known as “The Sequester”…

  • Cut Head Start by $400 million in FY2013, which will result in 1,200 fewer Tennessee children served. Nationwide, tens of thousands of Head Start employees could either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.
  • Cut employment services, which connect job seekers with employment opportunities and job training. With cuts totaling more than $37 million, some 830,000 fewer job seekers will receive employment assistance.
  • Threaten the loss of 750,000 American jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office, leaving many middle class Americans vulnerable.
  • Cuts 2 percent from Medicare, which would cost 212,000 jobs in the healthcare industry alone, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“Congress needs to do more to make sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205. “A fair budget agreement should raise more revenue from wealthy Americans and big corporations. There are hundreds of billions in tax loopholes used by big business and the wealthy to allow them to avoid taxes that could give us more revenue and prevent cuts to the vital services our communities need.”

This story got media attention from NBC News and from The Nashville Scene.

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Chattanooga Council Passes Resolution to Protect Social Security and Make Corporations Pay Their Fair Share

Local 205 members celebrate the resolution passed by the Chattanooga Council which supports Social Security funding vital services, and protecting jobs.

Local 205 members celebrate the resolution passed by the Chattanooga Council which supports Social Security funding vital services, and protecting jobs.

On the eve of Social Security’s 78th birthday, SEIU Local 205 members stood together at City Hall and applauded Chattanooga City Council action on Resolution 27620, which calls on Congress to end the sequester, and balance the federal budget in a way that will create jobs and strengthen our communities.

The resolution was one way thousands of citizens and elected officials all across America are coming together to protect vital services that serve children, working Americans, and seniors.

“Nearly 80 years after Social Security was signed into law, it is still under threat along with other vital services like Head Start, Meals On Wheels, and job education,” said Steve West, an SEIU member who works for Chattanooga’s Public Works department. “We are happy that Chattanooga’s City Council took a stand to protect these vital services which are so crucial to our community.”

In March of this year, $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts went into effect. These cuts, known as “The Sequester” are a costly wound to our economy and the middle class. At the same time, Congress is also considering cuts to Social Security known as “chained–CPI” which would hurt seniors and puts millions of workers at risk for retirement poverty. Social Security has never contributed to budget deficits and should not be cut as a part of the budget deal. Switching to a chained-CPI would reduce Social Security benefits for current and future retirees by $112 billion over the next 10 years.

“Congress needs to do more to make sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” said Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205. “A fair budget agreement should raise more revenue from wealthy Americans and big corporations. It’s time for Congress to act to restore investment in these vital services, protect Social Security and make corporations pay their fair share.”

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Standing Up for Dignity and Respect @ Metro Health Department!

In addition to the step raises that union members at the Metro Health Department won for their co-workers, SEIU members are reviving a new spirit of activism by standing up for themselves against bad managers.

  • One program manager who had been harassing his staff for over a year finally decided to take early retirement once workers began signing up for the union, documenting his behavior, and speaking out against him.
  • When a new supervisor started harassing her staff over scheduling vacation time and calling in sick, the Union set up a meeting with the bureau director and got the wheels turning to develop a better procedure for requesting time off.
  • An employee broke down into tears at work after receiving some horrible news about her family. But rather than get sympathy from her supervisor, the worker was escorted out of the building by security and was accused of threatening a co-worker – which was patently untrue! It was a serious situation that could have resulted in the employee’s termination, but since she had Union representation, the worker was able to explain the situation and tell her side of the story. Ultimately, she transferred to another facility where she could work in a less stressful environment.

These are just a few of the recent stories that have unfolded as Metro Public Health Department employees have decided to stand up for dignity and respect on the job by joining with Local 205. Stay tuned for more…

 

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SEIU Still Fighting & Winning for Support Staff in Metro Schools!

Despite what you may have heard from some administrators, SEIU Local 205 is still representing support staff working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Whether it’s filing grievances, handling disciplinary meetings, or getting information to our members in the workplace, SEIU is still on the job and we’re still signing up new members to join in the struggle to bring dignity and respect into the workplace despite all obstacles. Here are just a few of the things your Union has done recently for its members:

Job Placement
Because Dr. Register did away with workers rights in the Support Employee Handbook that was negotiated by workers, many MNPS employees found themselves without a job at the end of the school year. SEIU representatives worked tirelessly to make sure that our members did not slip through the cracks.

We monitored the process of displacement and job elimination, we assisted on transfers, and ensured that dozens of loyal MNPS employees were able to stay employed this year and are able to get back to serving students.

Representation
Thanks to effective representation by SEIU…

  • A Food Service member was able to keep her job.
  • A member had a reprimand removed from their record.
  • A secretary whose job was eliminated was placed in one of the high schools.
  • A Food Service employee’s pay issue was resolved.
  • A guidance clerk whose job was eliminated was able to keep a job and got placed.

Political Action
SEIU helped elect a pro-labor candidate to the Metro School Board in the last election against all odds and it was a story that made national headlines. SEIU continues to meet with School Board members, elected officials, and community partners to ensure MNPS employees’ rights are protected.

 

 

 

 

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Union Member’s Story Featured in ‘The Tennessean’

Brian Hull, director of the Nashville Public Library's renowned puppet program, Wishing Chair Productions, arranges shadow puppets backstage before a performance at the library. Photo by Steven S. Harman / The Tennessean.

Brian Hull, director of the Nashville Public Library’s renowned puppet program, Wishing Chair Productions, arranges shadow puppets backstage before a performance at the library. Photo by Steven S. Harman / The Tennessean.

SEIU member Brian Hull is featured in a fantastic story by The Tennessean.

Brian is the director of the Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Horse Productions program, which has been called “the top puppetry program of any library in the United States” by the man who created marionettes for the film “Being John Malkovich”.

Congratulations to Brian and his team at the Nashville Public Library!

 

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For Nashville puppeteer, pretty much everything he did led up to dream job

Written by
Tony Gonzalez | The Tennessean
Aug. 1, 2013

He’d already done the puppet show a dozen times to big crowds and rave reviews, but Brian Hull paused a few moments before a recent performance to tinker with one little detail.

The toy train — it had to roll onstage at exactly the right moment.

“It just didn’t feel right,” he said.

A slight change — a difference of a couple seconds — would make for a bigger surprise for the audience, Hull thought. So he made the change.

Whether anyone noticed, well, that’s hard to say.

But getting those little things right is what Hull is all about. And it’s why his job as the director of the Nashville Public Library’s renowned puppet program, Wishing Chair Productions, is just about the perfect place for him to be.

He’d been preparing for this moment in this place for most of his life — without knowing it — by working in animation, theater, songwriting, dance, sculpture and painting.

“He can sing, he can dance, he’s a great artist — a Renaissance man,” said Barbi Bailey-Smith, a regular at the library’s puppet shows. “What I love is, he’s still here. A lot of times, with people with talent like that, they start here (and leave). But it’s like his home.”

Those tools come together in the art of puppetry. But he didn’t know it when he first applied to take the director position for the library’s puppet program in 1997. He had just finished performing a children’s show as a character he called “the Professor” at Opryland theme park.

“When I was doing the Professor at the park I thought, ‘Boy, it would be great if I had a place where I could do this where kids could see it for free.’ It really seemed impossible,” Hull said. “But it’s not impossible, because that’s exactly what it is here. This really is the job — what I do here at the library.”

It has been 16 years since the guy who could do a bit of everything found the job that required it.

“It’s outrageous,” Hull said. “It overwhelms me if I think about it too much — Holy smokes! How did I get here?”

An unexpected turn

Hull can dream up imaginary lands, characters and storylines, but for his own life he hadn’t planned on puppetry. He was interested in cartoon animation. “I just thought that’s what I would do, because it’s all I did, was sit and draw — draw, draw, draw, draw draw draw draw draw draw draw draw — day and night.”

He also counts Ernie Kovacs, an experimental TV actor from the 1950s, among influences for his daring use of camera tricks and animation.

“He tried things that people weren’t trying. He was fearless. It was sort of a no-apologies style of performing. And his attitude was an inspiration,” Hull said. “It’s the same thing with our puppet shows. This is what we do and you don’t have to come in — but people do.”

There’s a bit of Charlie Chaplin in the mix, too, but not for his big on-screen antics. Hull appreciates how Chaplin could handle every aspect of production.

Hull got his first taste of that as the Professor at Opryland, where he “became the one in charge of my own show, starring me,” he said, laughing.

“I am very thankful to Opryland for allowing me to fail, because in the beginning, it was a disaster.”

His challenge, he said, was learning to hold an audience of children while roller coasters, water rides and trains whizzed past.

By the time Hull landed at the library, he’d performed in at least 50 professional theater shows and was flirting with a major TV deal for an animated show of his own.

The library gig would be temporary, he thought. He really wanted to finish the animated show — about a band of bugs trying to make it big in the music industry — and this was way before “A Bug’s Life.”

But he soon found animation and puppetry to be “sister” art forms.

“Because puppetry is animation done in real time,” he said.

And the animated thing? That fell through. But to see Hull’s most recent production — “String City,” a telling of the musical history of Nashville — is to see his range of talents without seeing a whole lot of Hull, who stays mostly backstage above the puppet strings.

The show includes animations on a screen, hand-painted scenery, shadow puppets, delicate marionettes, visual puns and short movies. (“String City” ended its first run at the library and is scheduled to return in late October at the Country Music Hall of Fame.)

One collaborator on “String City,” Phillip Huber — perhaps the nation’s most well-known marionette maker for his work on the film “Being John Malkovich” — called Hull’s work “a cut above” typical puppet shows.

“He has a very rich background in the theatrical arts, which is essential to this art form,” Huber said. “As far as I’m aware of, this is the top puppetry program of any library in the United States. Most of the credit for that strength belongs to Brian.”

Puppetry, Huber said, isn’t particularly lucrative, but “pays you with dividends of the heart.”

Not slowing down

Hull has clearly made it big in that respect, leading a life that’s about as glamorous as it gets for a puppeteer.

And he has seen too much inspiring art to slow down now.

“When I see things that are great, I think, ‘I wish I could do that. I wish I had done that,’ ” he said.

Now, he feels as if he has been given the chance to so something great.

“It is being handed right to you,” he said.

He can feel when he has done things right through the tiny handshakes and fist bumps that kids rush to give him after a show — or before it even begins.

Standing outside the theater doors last week before the performance, Hull saluted a dad he knew, then offered a high-five to a little blond-haired boy. Almost everyone walking through the door knew him.

Standing nearby, library employee Jackie Sims shook his head and smiled.

“He’s the man,” Sims said.

Hull leaned over.

“Well, you know,” he said, lowering his voice for comic effect, “I do the puppet show at the library.”

 

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