August 2015

NES Members Negotiate New Agreement!

The Negotiating Committee and local president Doug Collier (right) go over proposals for the new agreement.

The Negotiating Committee and local president Doug Collier (right) go over proposals for the new agreement.

The Union’s contract committee at Nashville Electric Service (“NES”) completed negotiations on a new five-year agreement between SEIU Local 205 and the Power Board which includes dozens of improvements for workers, including:

  • A 3% raise in the first year of the agreement.
  • A new “80 and out” plan for retirement.
  • Remove the 16-hour loan resulting from changing pay periods.
  • Employees may convert up to 20 days of annual leave to sick leave.

For more details about the agreement, contact one of the chapter officers or bargaining team member.

 

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Local 205 Endorses Megan Barry in Nashville Mayor Runoff Election!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Public Employees Union Endorses Megan Barry for Mayor

SEIU Supports “Highly Qualified, Big Picture” Candidate to Succeed Dean

(Nashville)  Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing thousands of public employees working in Metro Government, Metro Schools, and various local government agencies, announced its support for Megan Barry as mayor of Nashville.

Barry, a two-term at-large member of the Metro Council and business executive, faces hedge fund millionaire David Fox in a runoff election on September 10. Barry championed several pieces of pro-labor legislation during her years on the council, including a living wage ordinance for city employees and a domestic partner benefit, which is the first significant expansion of employee benefits in years. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, she’s built a career in the field of ethics and corporate accountability, and is active in local non-profit and community organizations.

“In looking at the backgrounds and track records of the two remaining mayoral candidates, the decision to support Megan Barry was an easy one for our members to make,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205. “Megan has demonstrated a greater working knowledge of how Metro works, that she can work with people on all sides of an issue and be a consensus builder, and that she is receptive to the needs of people who work for a living,” Collier stated. “Meanwhile, David Fox’s career has been built off of gambling with other people’s money on Wall Street and killing jobs like the 700 custodians who lost their jobs and benefits with Metro during Fox’s term on the school board.”

“The city needs more funding for our public schools, not more charters who cherry pick students and don’t have to play by the same rules as public schools,” said James Brown, a communications technician who served on the union’s candidate committee. “Nashville needs to keep the experienced, hard-working employees it has, not fire them for mythical cost savings that never materialize. Megan Barry understands that prosperity, not austerity, is what builds economies and improves the quality of life and she has the experience and skills to follow through on that.”

Election Day is on Thursday, September 10, 2015, but early voting begins on Friday, August 21. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 862-8800.

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The Service Employees International Union is the fastest-growing labor union in North America, with a membership of over 2 million members. In Tennessee, SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public service and healthcare workers across the state, including public employees in Metro Government, Metro Schools, MDHA, Metro Action Commission, the Nashville Hospital Authority, and other local government departments and agencies.

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Despite Threats on Several Fronts, SEIU “Survives and Thrives” In Metro Government in 2015!

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

“They’ve been throwing everything and the kitchen sink at us all year and we’ve not only survived, we’ve thrived,” says Antonio McKissack, a water maintenance leader who serves as the chief union steward for Local 205’s Metro chapter.

Antonio, who his friends call “A.T.”, is talking about the victories that SEIU has faced on several fronts in 2015. Thanks to the organization and activism of its members working in Metro Government, the union has protected the pension, stopped radical changes to the pay plan, and helped push forward pay increases for all Metro employees.

Pension & Health Benefits

The threat to employee benefits began over a year ago when the mayor’s Study & Formulating Committee defied their mandate from the Metro Council and began a “full review” of employee pension and health benefits.  For that, the committee lined up the Washington DC-based Pew Trusts, which is funded by former Enron executive John Arnold. Arnold’s project has caused disruption to local and state pension systems across the country, but thanks to big turnout by workers at the Study & Formulating Committee meetings and an aggressive lobbying program, SEIU has stopped any cuts to the pension for current and future employees.

Having lost the fight on the city pension, which is one of the most profitable and well-funded in the country, the committee turned its attention to the employee medical plan. And yet, despite a misleading media campaign about the Metro plan’s “unfunded liability”, SEIU has stopped any major cuts or changes to the health insurance benefits for employees. Meanwhile, changes to future retiree health plans may yet still happen depending on the actions of the Benefit Board and the council over the summer and fall. Also this year, SEIU supported the first expansion of employee benefits in years; the domestic partner benefit, which passed the Metro Council overwhelmingly.

The Pay Study

While the threat to employee benefits played out, another study was going on related to Metro employee pay. A comprehensive study of Metro employee pay and benefits, which was done by consulting firm DeLoitte, was the first of its kind in over a decade and included surveys and other analysis that resulted in several significant findings – some good for employees, some not so good. One positive recommendation from the pay study was to increase the salaries of jobs which were “in crisis” because they were 20%  or more behind their “peers” (the market standard for that particular job). SEIU helped get some of those job classifications onto the consultants’ radar because of our members’ research and recommendation. As a result of SEIU members’ activism, workers in the Health, Water, and 911 departments as well as corrections officers in the DCSO received extra pay increases.

Meanwhile, another recommendation of the DeLoitte pay study would have reclassified many existing Civil Service employees to become “open-range” employees, which means they would no longer be eligible for step raises. SEIU opposed expanding an open-range (also known as “merit pay”) system in Metro for several reasons—a lack of consistent funding, the arbitrary nature of merit pay, and because most research has shown that merit pay does not improve performance in the public sector. SEIU would not budge on our opposition to this proposal and the Dean Administration ultimately abandoned it.

Employee Pay and Raises

When it came to employee pay, this year’s Metro budget included several improvements for city employees, thanks in no small part to the strategic and consistent activity by members of Local 205.

All city employees received a 2.5% cost of living (COLA) raise. Employees who were eligible for increment (“step”) raises received them, which represents an increase of between 1-3%. Employees classified as “open range” received between 0-3% and eligible employees in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office received compression pay.

In the run-up to the vote on the budget, SEIU members met with council members to talk to them about the love they have for public service as well as the struggles they face. They also educated the council about the value and importance of a strong employee benefit system that rewards loyalty and service to the public.

“I am so proud of my brothers and sisters for their hard work and persistence,” says McKissack. “Our stewards and activists rose to the challenge and worked hard to protect their departments and get good raises for all city employees. We still have some things to get fixed for next year, but we are on a roll.”

 

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SEIU Endorses for Metro Council Runoff Elections on Sept. 10!

MetroGovt-sealThe Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205 announces their endorsed candidates for Nashville’s Metro Council runoff election to be held on September 10, 2015.

The candidates were interviewed and chosen by a committee of rank and file members of our union.  The members of this committee work for Metro Government or for Metro schools.

The endorsed candidates are:

Council At-Large
Erin Coleman
John Cooper
Robert Duvall
Erica Gilmore
Jason Holleman
Lonnell Matthews
Jim Shulman

Council District

District 1
Loniel Greene
Nick Leonardo

District 2
Robert Stockard

District 3
No Endorsement

District 5
Sarah Martin

District 8
Nancy Van Reece

District 13
No Endorsement
(no survey submitted)

District 17
Colby Sledge
Paula Foster

District 20
Mary Carolyn Roberts

District 23
Mina Johnson

Early Voting for the runoff election is from August 21-September 5.

For complete election information, including early voting and absentee ballots, visit the Davidson County Election Commission’s website or call them at 615-862-8800.

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Health Department Workers Rally to Protect Work Rules and Jobs!

SEIU members rally to support employee rights and quality public services at the Metro Health Department in Nashville.

SEIU members rally to support employee rights and quality public services at the Metro Health Department in Nashville.

It was literally standing room only when SEIU members and other staff packed a public hearing about work rules for employees of the Metro Public Health Department in Nashville.

Dozens of public health workers including disease investigators, nurses, and clerks were in attendance to support a presentation by Local 205 which analyzed a management proposal which could put promotions, jobs and quality services at risk.

“I’ve worked for the Health department for 27 years and what the administration is proposing with some of these civil service rule changes is pretty radical,” said Mattie Greer, a public health nurse at the East clinic. Administrators proposed a new rule which would eventually make all grant-funded positions in the department (approximately 60% of the workforce) ineligible for rehire, severance pay, recall rights, and appeals.

SEIU’s presentation, which was developed by a committee of Health Department union members, supported some of the proposed rule changes but were strongly opposed to management’s proposal to cut employee civil service rights. The union opposed other management proposals related to bereavement leave, overtime pay, complaint procedures and disciplinary appeal rights.

One unusual proposal by management would require MPHD staff to disclose if they serve on the board of any other organization – even if they were unpaid volunteers. “If I am on the board at my church or an officer of the PTO or a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, I would have to tell my employer about it or I could be asked to resign,” said Mia Jackson, a Program Specialist. “That seems a little bit of an overreach and intrusive for a department that is supposed to respect individuals’ privacy.”

SEIU hasn’t just been in opposition to management proposals – they’ve tried to be part of the solution. For nearly a year, union members have been developing rule proposals of their own and several of those were accepted. The need for more employee input has been evident at the MPHD, which has been at the center of various media controversies over the last three years. Exit interviews by Health Department employees have been scathing and there have been several recent major shakeups in the upper-level management team.

“With all the turnover at the Health Department and with good people being passed over for promotions, there needs to be some soul-searching about what’s working and not working,” said Mark Naccarato, an SEIU organizer who presented the employee presentation at the public hearing. “While some of the rule changes management is proposing are progressive and attempt to solve legitimate problems, several of their ideas like the one that takes away civil service rights for staff on recurring grants are really just a case of management trying to make the rank and file pay for the mistakes they’ve made.”

The presentation by SEIU lasted about 20 minutes, at which point the department’s director, Dr. Bill Paul, tried to respond to SEIU’s concerns. The board members asked some follow-up questions and prompted a good discussion centered around employees’ rights and the changing nature of grant-funded public services.

The Board of Health did not vote on any proposals at the public hearing and plans to continue the discussion on the proposed rule changes at their next regularly-scheduled meeting in mid-September.

** READ SEIU’s PRESENTATION to the Board of Health! **

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SEIU Members Volunteer for Chattanooga Food Bank!

Chattanooga-FoodBank_2015Chattanooga-FoodBank_2015SEIU members in Chattanooga spent some time volunteering for the Chattanooga Food Bank in July as part of an effort to engage in the community more and lend a hand to those in need. “This was fun, educational, and we even got a little exercise out of it,” said Sharron Pryor, a parks recreation leader who helped organize the event. “Volunteering is not a job but a way to help our community and we all enjoyed doing it.”

 

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