March 2014

SEIU Takes Action to Protect Jobs & Quality Care at Nashville Nursing Homes

Union members working at Bordeaux Long Term Care are sticking together as they face a transition to a private sector employer.

Union members working at Bordeaux Long Term Care are sticking together as they face a transition to a private sector employer.

After weeks of meetings between Local 205, Metro officials, and executives at three different private companies, agreements were made to protect the job security and employee rights of hundreds of healthcare workers at the Bordeaux Long Term Care facility and the Knowles Home for Assisted Living in Nashville.

The agreements came out of a new deal that Metro Government brokered with Signature Healthcare, Ed Street Company, and Autumn Assisted Living Partners to transition long term care services away from government to the private sector, a trend that has been happening nationwide for decades. Of all the major metropolitan areas in Tennessee, only Nashville still operates nursing homes. Under the deal, which was approved by the Metro Council in March with SEIU’s support, Signature will manage and operate the Bordeaux Long Term Care facility while Autumn will operate Knowles.

SEIU was able to negotiate a “memoranda of agreement” with Signature Healthcare to ensure that workers and patients at Bordeaux were protected in the transition and that they continued to have a voice through their union.

“Having this kind of an agreement with a private sector company is very rare and a big win for our members,” said Brad Rayson, Local 205’s representative who helped bargain the various agreements. “Even though the facilities changed from government hands to private operators, we were able to keep salaries and benefits consistent with what workers had as Metro employees, we protected folks pensions who were near retirement, and we protected jobs.” An estimated 90% of current Bordeaux employees will be offered jobs with Signature while the remaining staff will be offered either another job within Metro or a severance package to help while they find new employment. Signature will assume management of the BLTC facility on May 1, 2014.

SEIU also negotiated that Signature recognize the union as the employees’ bargaining representatives as well as the attendant rights and responsibilities that come with union recognition. “We get to keep our union and our seat at the table,” said Berry Woods, a phlebotomist at Bordeaux. “Everything is negotiable, but that is not. We are glad to remain a union shop so we can continue to fight for the best care for our patients.”

Meanwhile, at Knowles Home, all current employees will be offered their jobs and they will also be entitled to the severance package. Autumn will officially assume management of Knowles on July 1, 2014.

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Historic New Labor Agreement in Chattanooga!

SEIU members and city officials look on as SEIU's Doug Collier and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke sign the new labor agreement.

SEIU members and city officials look on as SEIU’s Doug Collier and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke sign the new labor agreement.

When employees working for the city of Chattanooga contacted SEIU Local 205 back in 2006, they made it clear that they wanted to see the unfair treatment of city employees end and they wanted to have their voices heard in the halls of power.

Eight years later – only days before the historic vote to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga – a new Memorandum of Understanding (also known as an “M.O.U.”) was signed by Mayor Andy Berke and officials at Local 205. The new labor agreement, among other things, gives workers a seat at the table on everything from department policies to budgets to a fair appeals process for employees.

“It’s important that the rank-and-file get a seat at the table because we know what works and what doesn’t,” said Alonzo Strickland, an equipment operator for the Public Works department. “This has been a long time coming and I’m glad to be a part of this union.”

“The new M.O.U. means that workers have the right to good representation and things won’t be one-sided like they sometimes were in the past,” said Sharron Pryor, a rec center employee for the Parks & Recreation department. “What we need now are more people signing up for the union and joining together so that we have more strength and can make more improvements to our pay and benefits.”

The M.O.U. is in effect until 2017 and was signed in a small ceremony attended by SEIU members, Mayor Berke, and city council members. Details of the labor agreement were reported on by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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“Workers’ Day On the Hill”: A Wake-Up Call for TN Politicians

WorkersDayOnTheHill_2014Local 205 along, with dozens of other unions, community, student, civil rights, and faith groups from all across the state came together on the capitol steps to call on the Tennessee legislature to change its current agenda and make the interests of working people its top priority. The “Workers Day on the Hill” rally was covered by media outlets across the state.

Governor Haslam, the legislature, and their corporate funders, have abandoned everyday people, and pursued an agenda that favors huge corporations and the wealthy.

Under our state’s current leadership, income inequality has soared to an all time high, while good, living wage jobs that provide benefits have disappeared. The legislature has refused to raise the minimum wage, and has attacked basic worker protections like mandatory lunch breaks and overtime pay. It’s an unfair, unequal economy, that values greed and profit over our basic needs. We need good, living wage jobs with benefits. Jobs should keep us out of poverty, not in it.

This coalition has come together because we have a different vision of Tennessee—one that puts “We The People” first.


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