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SEIU Endorses Andy Berke for Mayor of Chattanooga!

Members of Local 205 and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke.

Members of Local 205 and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing employees in Chattanooga city departments, announced its endorsement of Andy Berke for mayor.

Berke has served four years as Chattanooga’s mayor as the city saw major growth and progress on multiple fronts, including for city employees. Berke was the first mayor to recognize a union for general government employees by signing a memorandum of understanding with SEIU, he’s worked with union members to develop an employee policy manual that is consistent across all city departments, and he has continued to meet in good faith with local labor organizations to ensure equal and fair treatment for all city employees.

“Andy Berke is one of the most pro-worker mayors I’ve seen in a long time and we’re proud to continue supporting him,” said union member Blondel Garner, a Head Start teaching assistant who has worked for the city for over 20 years. “Andy knows how to treat people and he knows how to make our city successful.”

“I respect Andy Berke because he respects people who work for a living,” said Greg Hinton, a building maintenance mechanic. “We are not going to find another candidate for mayor who is as committed to workers and making Chattanooga great as Andy Berke is… he’s already proven it.”

“We look forward to continuing to deepen our relationship with Andy by creating more efficient and productive ways to address employees concerns and issues,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205.

Election Day is on March 7, 2017 and early voting begins on February 15. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Hamilton County Election Commission at 423-493-5100.

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SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public service and healthcare workers across the state of Tennessee, including employees of the City of Chattanooga.

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Chattanooga Members Nominate New Leaders!

The main order of business at the October chapter meeting of the Chattanooga city government chapter was to nominate a slate of shop stewards and chapter officers to represent the membership beginning in January, 2016.

Nominations included Robert Ledford for chief steward and Nancy Nason for recording secretary.

Because there were two nominees for deputy chief steward – Alonzo Strickland and Terry Davis – an election will be held for this office.

In the shop steward positions, the members nominated were:

Police Civilians: Susan Contreras
City Hall: Charise Hughey
Public Works/City Wide Services: Alonzo Strickland (DCS nominee) and Stephen West
Public Works/Moccasin Bend Plant: Jay Wilson, Terry Davis (DCS nominee), Gennifer Coffey
Public Works/Parks: Todd Weller
YFD/Head Start: Cyndy Workman, Cantus Griffith, Lanita Montgomery
YFD/Recreation: Sharron Pryor
Public Library: Robert Hart

Elections will be held on Thursday, November 26 at the union hall. The positions are two-year terms.

For more information, contact your shop steward or your union representative.

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SEIU Helps Create Consistent, Fair Policies for Chattanooga City Employees In Historic Partnership!

Employees and administrators discuss the new policies being proposed for employees of the City of Chattanooga.

Employees and administrators discuss the new policies being proposed for employees of the City of Chattanooga.

Beginning in September, Chattanooga city employees will have a new set of policies and procedures that were developed in partnership between city officials and SEIU Local 205. This is the first time that workers in all departments will have universal rules to follow and the administration will have a clear and consistent process to handle a variety of situations. This is an historic moment for organized labor in Chattanooga in which city employees were able to participate in their conditions of labor and is a testament to the strength and persistence of SEIU members.

The first draft of the new policy and procedures manual was nearly 200 pages and was divided into three sections. Union members sat on each of the subcommittees to represent workers across the departments including Sharron Pryor, Steve West, Alonzo Strickland, Jeff Templin, Nancy Nason, Cyndy Workman, Terry Davis, and Robert Ledford. There were also a handful of other diligent and dedicated union members who spent time with the document and added their input and perspective to the process. Each of these people spent hours reading and responding to all of the issues in the document.

After an eighteen-month discussion process with multiple meetings with the subcommittees and administration, the handbook went to the city council for a vote. During the hearing process, a few points were changed and many of the subcommittee members were present to testify on several points that workers had concerns with. Then SEIU local president Doug Collier came to Chattanooga to discuss the points with the administration. All parties agreed that workers will continue to meet with the administration over the next six months with the intent of changing the current language, and then return to the city council with amendments.

Major Improvements from the Policy Committee:

  • On-Call Pay for workers who take call.
  • Call-Back Pay for workers who come in when called.
  • Clear light duty policy for workers injured on the job.
  • Mandatory 5-day posting time for internal and external jobs.
  • Option to mediate before Administrative Law Judge in disciplinary hearings.
  • With supervisor approval, workers can combine their lunch and break periods.
  • Additional step in discipline cases, and institution of worker improvement plans with an emphasis on training instead of discipline.
  • Anti-harassment policy for all city workers in line with new ordinance.

 

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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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Chattanooga City Employee Policy Handbook Nears Completion

Employees and administrators discuss the new policies being proposed for employees of the City of Chattanooga.

Employees and administrators discuss the new policies being proposed for employees of the City of Chattanooga.

The city of Chattanooga’s human resources department released its first draft of the Employee Handbook for review by the union members who have partnered with the city on the new policies.

During the meeting, SEIU Local 205 members gave administration a 10-page document outlining our concerns with the first draft of the proposed handbook.  Each union member at the meeting took responsibility for presenting a part of the document while administrators listened and asked questions about the union’s concerns.

Management was represented by Tina Camba, Brent Goldberg, Todd Dockery, Madeline Green, Travis McDonough, and David Carmody.

Union members were represented by Robert Ledford, Terry Davis, Sharron Pryor, Steve West, Alonzo Strickland, Nancy Nason and Jeff Templin.

“I thought the meeting was great” said Sharron Pryor, chief steward.  Jeff Templin added, “If they listen to us and take into consideration at least half of what we presented to them, I think this handbook will be a document we can get behind.”

Mayor Andy Berke made a surprise appearance in the meeting, congratulated the members on their hard work in the committees and all of the effort everyone has put forward in making the employee handbook.

The union continues to work with the administration to craft a uniform policy handbook and that clarifies rules and improves working conditions for all city employees.

Kate Sheets contributed to this report.

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Safety & Efficiency Improvements for Chattanooga City Employees Thanks to Union Activism!

Public Works steward Terry Davis led the effort to get cellphones for on-call employees.

In the wake of the new M.O.U. between Local 205 and the city of Chattanooga, workers are having more of a say on things like policies, payplans, and ensuring that public employees are treated with the dignity, respect, and fairness they deserve. Here are three more recent developments that will help city workers safety and improve efficiency.

  • Moccasin Bend Workers Win Cellphone for On-Call employees. Thanks to the hard work of union steward Terry Davis, public works employees who are on-call do not have to hover over their landlines if they don’t have personal cellphone service. Eligible 0n-call employees are now issued cellphones so they can be reached at any time. This improves efficiency and prevents employees from being written up if their own cellphones or landlines malfunction or if they have a limited personal cellphone plan or bad wireless access.
  • Band-Aid Kits Now Standard Equipment On Public Works Vehicles. It seems like a no-brainer that sanitation workers and other Public Works employees who are in the field and are likely to get cuts and scrapes as part of their daily work would be able to get a Band-Aid kit on their truck so they wouldn’t have to stop what they were doing just to get bandaged up. But for some reason, this is what has been the case for years. SEIU members raised the issue with department administrators and eventually management relented and is now adding Band-Aid kits to all vehicles. This change not only improves safety for employees, it promotes efficiency so that truck crews don’t have to spend work time going back to their worksite just to get a bandage. All other major work rules and procedures related to injury-on-duty are not impacted by this change.
  • Union Forming Safety Committee. SEIU Local 205 has been asked to help develop programs and ideas that could improve safety for Chattanooga city employees. Again, this speaks to a new relationship wherein workers who have “in the trenches” experience have a voice in their working conditions, rather than relying entirely on the limited experience of administrators and bureaucrats. Union members who are interested in being involved in the new Safety Committee are invited to contact their union steward or the SEIU representative for more information.

 

 

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Workers To Be Included in Chattanooga Pay Plan Talks

Members of SEIU raise concerns about city employee pay in Chattanooga.

Members of SEIU raise concerns about city employee pay in Chattanooga.

After SEIU led city employees in a massive rally at the Chattanooga City Council to address inequities in the city employee pay plan, the human resources department has extended an invitation for Local 205 to nominate workers to serve on a joint committee that will be redesigning the city pay plan in the coming months.

The Union wants a pay plan similar to the old stepped pay plan.  The old plan recognized the value that workers gain after years of service to the city.  The union members serving on the pay plan steering committee are committed to helping the city restructure the pay plan so that it once again provides opportunity for advancement along with a decent standard of living.

The steering committee includes Steve West, Steve Porter, Robert Ledford, Terry Davis, Jesse Pendergraph, Robert Hart, and Nancy Nason.

Once the committee has met, members of the committee will be reporting back to their coworkers and fellow union members and calling for feedback and input from everyone.

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SEIU Gets Pay Inequity Addressed in Chattanooga!

SEIU members make their voices heard at Chattanooga city council.

SEIU members make their voices heard at Chattanooga city council.

Having finally gotten a new Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Chattanooga, SEIU members are weighing in on an issue that has gone unaddressed for years… underpaid city employees.

Approximately 1,200 workers under the general pay plan don’t have the option to move up the pay scale unless they are promoted or receive cost-of-living percentage increases. More than half of city employees are in a position that has a starting salary of less than $30,000.

After several appearances and demonstrations at the city council, elected officials are taking the union’s complaint seriously. They’ve commissioned a compensation study of employees in the general plan which will begin in September.

For the full story, read the article from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

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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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A Tale of Two Libraries: Local 205 Members Take Action!

Some Local 205 members working for Nashville Public Library.

Some Local 205 members working for Nashville Public Library.

SEIU Local 205 members working in public libraries in Nashville and Chattanooga have been organizing to ensure fairness and economic security for them and their co-workers over the last year and have achieved no small amount of success by standing together.

SEIU members working in the Main library in downtown Nashville – who pay over $100/month to park where they work – have been campaigning for nearly a year to address their transportation issues. Union members launched a petition drive and a lobbying campaign of the library director, the board, and city officials. We are happy to report that a free shuttle for employees has been added along with more frequent trips for staff reporting in at different times. “This is a great first step to addressing the parking situation in the main branch,” says Bridget Radford, a shop steward. “The new option has been popular for many staff and we hope to eventually make sure that everyone who wishes to drive to work at the Main library can afford to so.”

Meanwhile, parking reform was also a goal for SEIU members working in the Chattanooga downtown library. Like Nashville, employees had to pay excessive parking fees to park in the lot that their workplace sits on. After workers there passed around a petition with dozens of signatures, SEIU reps raised the issue with city officials and the Mayor’s office. Starting in April, workers now are able to park for free at City Hall only a few blocks away. “Inclement weather presents a challenge sometimes, but I would much rather walk a couple of blocks and save some of my hard-earned money in high parking fees,” says Robert Hart who works in the downtown library.

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