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.
Local 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.