June 2014

Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Home Care in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

Home care workers and consumers are ready to stand up for quality home care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn.

“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”

The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care–and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.

“I count on my home care provider for so much–I wouldn’t be able to work or get through the day without her,” said Rahnee Patrick, a home care consumer and advocate from ACCESS Living in Chicago.” “I’m worried that I could lose her if her wages and benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton family. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.

“They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago. “Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.”

“For our parents and grandparents to get the care they need to live at home, workers need a strong voice in a union,” Henry said. “I know that Flora Johnson other SEIU members are determined to keep up the fight to end poverty wages and ensure quality care.”

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SEIU Endorses Tyese Hunter in MNPS District 6!

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing support employees working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools, announced the candidates the organization will be supporting in the School Board elections to be held on August 7, 2014.

“Nashville’s public schools are best run by people who have the biggest stake in them – families and educators. We hope that voters will take a look at supporting school board members who are qualified, compassionate, and who are tired of ‘business as usual’ at MNPS,” said Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205.

In District 6, SEIU is supporting Tyese Hunter who is challenging the current school board chair, Cheryl Mayes. Tyese, a Metro schools parent with a Master’s degree in higher education from TSU, also served six years with the United States Navy Reserves and brings a unique set of skills to the table. “As a Recruit Chief Petty Officer, Tyese led a group of 86 women through boot camp, which says a lot about her leadership abilities and being able to motivate people,” said Collier. “With all the challenges that our schools face today, we need stronger leadership than we’re seeing now and we think Tyese fits the bill.” Tyese is also a forceful advocate for children with disabilities and those who face disadvantages because of income or language barriers. “Tyese wants to raise expectations and outcomes for all students in Metro schools.” District 6 is primarily located in the Antioch area.

Election Day will be on Thursday, August 7. Complete information on early voting dates and locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission or call 862-8800.


SEIU Local 205 represents support employees working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools and has since 2001. Members come from nearly every department in the district and include school secretaries, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, education assistants, campus supervisors, maintenance workers, crossing guards and others who play a role in shaping the lives of children in Davidson County.



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SEIU Negotiates Improvements for Bi-Lingual Employees at Meharry!

Bi-lingual employees have long been used as interpreters at Meharry but were not being properly compensated for their skills. Union action resulted in a monthly pay increase of $100 and an education program that gave workers the opportunity for free classes and another pay raise upon completion of certification.

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SEIU Files IRS Complaint Against Tennessee Charter Group’s Tax Status

SEIU Local 205 was one of several labor groups who have filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service. The complaint suggests that the Tennessee Charter School Center exists only as a lobbying organization and shouldn’t qualify for tax-exempt status. SEIU wants the IRS to examine the lobbying practices of the TCSC, which was able to help establish a statewide charter authorizer that strips away the power of locally elected school boards.

The Central Labor Council, Jobs With Justice, and Urban Epicenter all joined with Local 205 in filing the complaint.

Read the full story at Nashville Public Radio or The Tennessean.

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Workers @ Methodist Medical Center Conclude Bargaining w/ Major Improvements!

File: Union members at MMC count ratification votes.

File: Union members at MMC count ratification votes.

After many obstacles and challenges, workers organized with SEIU Local 205 ratified a new three-year agreement with their employer, Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, TN.

A major sticking point this year was health insurance, when the company attempted to impose a 23.68% increase in employee health insurance contributions. This was considered unacceptable by the bargaining committee and even invited a legal challenge by the union. But by standing together, workers were able to negotiate improvements – not just in health insurance, but in wages and their other benefits, including:

  • A 2.5% raise every year in October.
  • An immediate 10% decrease in insurance premiums beginning with the first pay period after ratification. Those rates will be frozen for 18 months.
  • An increase in the voluntary flex spending account cap, raising it from $1000 to $2500.
  • A redesigned insurance plan that will add some yearly deductibles and a minimal increase in physician copays, but adds pharmacy expenses to the out-of-pocket maximum.
  • No other changes to benefits or the current contract with the exception of some language that addresses Affordable Care Act definitions of “full time”.

“This was only the second time we’ve done ‘limited bargaining’ and yes, it was frustrating at times, but in the end, cooler heads prevailed and the company did the right thing by workers,” said Jeff Massey, a respiratory therapist who served on the union’s bargaining team.

“I salute the bargaining team, the union representatives, and my co-workers for sticking together through this one,” said Gary Hughes, a unit secretary. “I have a feeling the next contract will be tough as well, but as long as we have strength, solidarity, and smarts, we will continue to make improvements so that we can continue to deliver top-notch health care to East Tennesseans.”

The new agreement, which passed by a vote of 92% by union members, expires in October, 2017.

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SEIU Members to Chattanooga Council: “Fair Raises for City Employees”

Local 205 members urge elected officials to implement a budget that is fair for all employees.

Local 205 members urge elected officials to implement a budget that is fair for all employees.

It was standing room only as approximately 80 members of SEIU Local 205 filled the city council chamber in Chattanooga to ask legislators to review the Mayor’s proposed budget and implement a raise for city employees which is more equitable for low-wage workers.

While Mayor Andy Berke has proposed a raise of 1.5% for employees, the union has asked for council members to look for ways to make the raise more equitable. “One and a half percent means a whole lot more to someone making 100 thousand a year than to someone making 20 thousand a year,” said Doug Collier, president of Local 205. Robert Hart, who works for the Chattanooga Public Library, says that percentage won’t amount to much for those whose paychecks are on the lower end of the scale. “For someone making 30 thousand a year, that’s only an increase of $8.46 a week and that’s nothing for these people,” said Hart.

Clad in the union’s signature purple and gold, dozens of Local 205 members came out in force and are part of a new wave of labor activism in Chattanooga. In recent weeks, SEIU has been attacked by radical anti-union organizations based in Washington D.C. after the union renewed its Memorandum of Understanding (“M.O.U.”) with Mayor Berke in March. “Just like what happened at the Volkswagen plant, a bunch of Beltway millionaires are trying to drown out the voices of working Chattanoogans,” Collier said. “I guess screwing up Washington wasn’t good enough for these folks, now they’re determined to ruin public services and working families with their threats and intimidation. All our members want is a fair shake and to be able to feed their families.”

The Chattanooga council continues to debate the city budget, with a vote expected to happen in July. Find out more about this story from WRCB-TV.



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