March 2016

Local 205 Is Winning for Healthcare Workers in Nashville!

After helping in the effort to secure emergency funding for Nashville General Hospital, SEIU Local 205 has also been successful helping hospital workers on the job.

Here’s just a few important victories that have happened at General in the first quarter of 2016:

  • The Union helped an underpaid employee get a $2/hr. raise.
  • The Union helped a member who was laid off get put back to work.
  • When a member was unfairly put on unpaid administrative leave, the Union got them their money back.

Stay tuned for more updates on improvements for healthcare workers at Nashville General Hospital.

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In Focus: Brad Rayson

STAFF_BradRayson1At the January meeting of the SEIU Local 205 Executive Board, Brad Rayson was sworn in to succeed Local president Doug Collier who retired effective Jan. 31. Brad, a native of Knoxville, has served as the local’s senior staff representative since 2013 and will now serve as president until the next Local election and convention in November, 2016.

Well before he served on the staff of Local 205, Brad had decades of experience in the labor movement. In his formative years, he watched his father represent the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) during a tumultuous period in the labor movement. Inspired by the work his father did and the people he represented, Brad decided to study labor law, doing his undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee and then moving on to law school at American University in Washington, D.C. While studying to get his law degree, Brad also worked as a clerk in the UMWA’s legal department. After graduating, he practiced labor law in Nashville before returning to the Mine Workers in 1987. While serving as a staff attorney for the UMWA in Virginia, Brad met Doug Collier, who at the time was working as a field representative.

In the late 80’s, Brad assisted union workers through some critical struggles in the West. A major strike in Montana and Wyoming taught Brad the importance of solidarity and direct action by workers in winning the day. “The law is extremely important, but the truth is that labor law is stacked against workers in the U.S. today,” Brad says. “The real power workers have is through organizing people and using that power effectively.”

After his time with the UMWA and then a four-year stint in the Pacific Northwest with the Teamsters, Brad made his way back to Knoxville, where he took a job with the union UNITE as the district director for the Mid-South District of the Southern Regional Joint Board. His territory included Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi and he represented workers that did everything from making auto parts and clothing to working in warehouses, mills and industrial laundries. Brad believes that his time with UNITE (which eventually affiliated with SEIU into a new union called Workers United) was the most productive in his career. “We didn’t have a very large staff or a lot of resources so I got to do a lot of things I might not otherwise do,” Brad recalls. “Instead of doing legal work full time, now I was organizing, bargaining, meeting elected officials, working on campaigns… it really helped me become more well-rounded and to get a better appreciation of all the nuts and bolts that go into operating a union.”

When asked what direction he sees Local 205 going in the future, Brad remembers the lessons about unionism he’s learned over the years. “I feel that a union’s true strength lies with its members and helping them fully explore their potential not just as activists, but as people. We can’t just rely on legal strategies and lawsuits to survive in a state like Tennessee, which is hostile to workers. We need to help people develop their skills and become the best leaders they can be. We have great talent, experience, and energy in our Local and we have to use all the different tools at our disposal to help grow our Local and our movement.”

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Metro Health Department Restores Stepped Pay Plan!

The Board of Health discusses a presentation from SEIU members about the Health Department's work rules and pay plan.

The Board of Health discusses a presentation from SEIU members about the Health Department’s work rules and pay plan.

At their March meeting, the Board of Health adopted a new pay structure that restores hundreds of Health Department employees into a stepped pay plan and removes them from “open range” classifications!

SEIU has made no secret of opposing open range structures in Metro and we included that in the Union’s presentation to the Board of Health. Many of the Health Department employees who will have their steps restored will also see pay increases under this new plan.

Despite claims to the contrary, research shows that open range/merit pay structures do not improve performance for public sector employees and often do serious damage to morale. In recent years in Metro Government, open range plans have not been well-funded and the processes the city uses to determine who gets what is vague and inconsistent. And in the private sector, open range/merit pay structures (which are used nearly universally in the U.S.) have frequently been used to play favorites or to discriminate against women and minorities.

A struggle against open range in Metro Government is going on as Nashville Public Library employees push back to stop an expansion of open range classifications in their department.

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Union Wins “Weather Grievance” @ Medegen!

When a major snowstorm rolled through West Tennessee last year, company officials at Medegen Medical Products disciplined dozens of workers who were unable to make it to work or got there late because of the weather.

SEIU filed a grievance asserting that the discipline was unreasonable because of severe weather conditions. The case was set for arbitration but the company agreed to settle the grievance. In the end, 22 members had their discipline reduced or thrown out while 4 other members received a cash settlement.


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We Will Miss You, Sam Price!

Sam Price worked in the Critical Care Unit of Methodist Medical Center.

Sam Price worked in the Critical Care Unit of Methodist Medical Center.

Time is perhaps our most precious commodity, and once it passes, it is lost forever. It is with great sadness that we pay tribute to a wonderful man, inside and out.  Sam Price was an example of greatness in so many ways.  He took each day in stride, always put others first, could put a smile on the face of anyone, and filled the world with love.  He was selfless, hardworking, understanding, and absolutely amazing.  His death has left an empty spot that can never be filled.

Sam was loving and real. He was a wonderful father, grandfather, and brother.  He was also dedicated to helping close friends in Kosovo.  In addition, Sam was a wonderful friend, co-worker, and strong union member.  He was truly the glue that held us together at MMC.  He possessed a gentle and caring nature.  Sam believed in being authentic with people.  He always knew what to say and how to say it.  Sam always fought for what he believed was right.  He was our advocate and a pillar of strength.

While the world suffered a huge loss on December 10, 2015, we have to find peace in the fact that Sam’s beautiful spirit will live on through his family and many friends.

Rest in Peace our dear precious Sam!

Those we love remain with us,

for love itself lives on.

Cherished memories never fade,

Because a loved one is gone.

Those we love can never be

More than a thought apart.

For as long as there is a memory,

They will live on in our heart.

-Author Unknown

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