Metro Action Commission

ChapterLogo_MACThe mission of the Metropolitan Action Commission is to change people’s lives, embody the spirit of hope, and improve the community.

The Metro Action Commission (“MAC”) admisters Davidson County’s Head Start program as well as programs that help Davidson County residents with utility assistance, rent, mortgage, deposits, prescriptions, property taxes and other household expenses.

Pew/Arnold Study on Metro Benefits Causes Confusion and Controversy

(Nashville)  Representatives from Pew Charitable Trusts caused confusion and controversy at a meeting of the Study & Formulating Committee when they revealed data about the Metro employee pension fund that conflicted with data presented by the city’s actuaries.

On multiple occasions, members of the Study & Formulating Committee attempted to get a straight answer from Pew representatives on the amount that Metro’s pension plan is funded at – a number which is crucial in determining if any reforms to the retirement system are even necessary. In a memo to the Committee on July 22, Pew/Arnold stated that Metro was funded at 77%, a number that was debunked by representatives from Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister, the independent actuary that serves Metro Government. According to BPS&M, Nashville’s open pension plan was funded at a healthy 85% (13% higher than the average state-level pension plan) in 2013. “I want to make sure we aren’t sounding alarms that don’t need to be sounded,” said Glenn Farner, one of the members of the Study & Formulating Committee, to the crowd in attendance.

“It is very disappointing to see an organization like Pew risk its reputation with this kind of fuzzy math in order to push an ideological agenda that puts the retirements of thousands of Middle Tennessee working families at risk,” said Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205. SEIU represents public employees in Metro government departments as well as Metro schools support staff, nearly all of whom are covered under Metro’s benefits plan.

Despite its credible name, Pew is partnering with the John & Laura Arnold Foundation to push a particularly dangerous plan to cripple public pensions all across the country. The Wall Street Journal identified Texas billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold as one of the major forces behind efforts to cut worker pensions at the city and state level. Arnold, who was the subject of a Department of Justice investigation related to his work at Enron (including accusations of insider training and his role in wiping out the retirements of thousands of Enron employees) has funneled massive amounts of money to pension-gutting politicians and their super PACs. His foundation has also directed $4.85 billion to Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Public Sector Retirement Systems” project, which has produced anti-pension research used by state lawmakers to justify cutting into public workers’ retirement benefits, often replacing them with more expensive, less reliable and widely-discredited 401(k) plans or their newer cousin, “hybrid pension plans,” which bring with them hefty bank fees and unnecessary risk for seniors.

The Pew/Arnold work has been called “deceptive” by a host of state legislators in Kentucky after the organizations convinced the state of Kentucky to adopt a new “cash balance plan” which the legislators said “will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, will not reduce our state’s unfunded liability, and will diminish retirement security.” Pew also recently dropped into Jacksonville, Florida to provide policy recommendations addressing the city’s retirement challenges. There, Pew provided a flawed actuarial analysis that wildly overstated the Jacksonville police and fire pension fund’s problems. The city ultimately rejected Pew’s advice.

“It seems like everywhere Pew/Arnold goes, their recommendations are the same – to weaken the retirement security of public employees,” Collier said. According to investment research firm Morningstar, Metro Nashville was the seventh-highest ranked public pension fund in the U.S., with an ROI of 18.3% in 2013. “It ain’t broke, so there is no need for Pew/Arnold to try and fix it,” said Collier.

Another controversy plaguing the Study & Formulating Committee is its agenda. The current committee was formed by Mayor Karl Dean at the request of Metro Council members who asked the mayor to appoint a committee “specifically to consider the provision of domestic partner benefits,” according to a letter signed by 26 city council members on Oct. 2, 2013. “It was never the intent of the Council for this committee to be debating and discussing other employee benefits,” said Collier. “The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an exhaustive study like this only two years ago and the changes that needed to be made were made. It is time for this current committee to be dissolved since their work on domestic partner benefits is concluded.”

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The Service Employees International Union is one of the fastest-growing labor unions in the U.S. with over 2.1 million members in North America. In Tennessee, SEIU Local 205 is chartered to represent thousands of public and private sector workers.

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SEIU Local 205 Members Applaud Metro Council Resolution to Invest in Vital Services

Bill sponsor Erica Gilmore (left), with SEIU members Mary Miller and Joan Parmer.

Bill sponsor Erica Gilmore (left), with SEIU members Mary Miller and Joan Parmer.

SEIU Local 205 members stood together and applauded Nashville’s Metro Council action on RS2013-824, which calls on Congress to end the sequester and balance the federal budget in a way that will create jobs and strengthen our communities.

The resolution is another way citizens and elected officials are coming together to invest in vital services, like Head Start, which took a $400 million cut this year due to the sequester. The Chattanooga City Council approved a similar resolution a week earlier.

“Cuts to Head Start, Meals On Wheels, and job education programs are hurting our community,” said Linda Epps, an employee of Metro Action Commission working in the Head Start program. “These days, Congress doesn’t do anything unless we force them to. We thank the Nashville Metro Council for taking a stand for our children and seniors.”

In March of this year, $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts went into effect. These cuts, known as “The Sequester”…

  • Cut Head Start by $400 million in FY2013, which will result in 1,200 fewer Tennessee children served. Nationwide, tens of thousands of Head Start employees could either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.
  • Cut employment services, which connect job seekers with employment opportunities and job training. With cuts totaling more than $37 million, some 830,000 fewer job seekers will receive employment assistance.
  • Threaten the loss of 750,000 American jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office, leaving many middle class Americans vulnerable.
  • Cuts 2 percent from Medicare, which would cost 212,000 jobs in the healthcare industry alone, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“Congress needs to do more to make sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205. “A fair budget agreement should raise more revenue from wealthy Americans and big corporations. There are hundreds of billions in tax loopholes used by big business and the wealthy to allow them to avoid taxes that could give us more revenue and prevent cuts to the vital services our communities need.”

This story got media attention from NBC News and from The Nashville Scene.

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VICTORY! MAC Employees Unite and Win!

At the Metro Action Commission in Nashville, SEIU members showed solidarity when administrators tried to force workers to use emergency leave during inclement weather, even though the agency’s own policy said otherwise. When the MAC employees took action and posted copies of the policy up on bulletin boards all across the city’s Head Start centers, administrators backed off.

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