Metro General Government

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The Metro General Government (or “Metro”) chapter of SEIU Local 205 is one of the most diverse. It is made up of a combination of blue-collar and white-collar workers who work across dozens of city departments doing skilled and unskilled labor that keeps Tennessee’s capital city running for local residents and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Music City every day.

And while the union members in the Metro chapter may come from different backgrounds, have different skills, and work in different kinds of work settings, one thing that SEIU members have learned is how to work together towards common goals: protecting workers’ rights, benefits, improving pay, dignity and respect on the job, and a commitment to excellence and quality public services.

Metro General Government Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) 

SEIU Ramps Up Pressure About TIF & Corporate Welfare in Nashville!

Coming on the heels of a national article by In These Times magazine about Amazon which Local 205 participated in, union officials delivered a statement to the Metro Council’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Study Committee on March 6. The union’s statement is on YouTube and was read by SEIU’s political director Jason Freeman – here it is in its entirety:

When it comes to Tax Increment Financing in Davidson County moving forward, we have a few things you should consider.

First, TIF was originally conceived as a way to entice development in ‘blighted areas.’ The idea was to use the incentive to build parks/green space, sidewalks or other public goods that would make an area more desirable for developers. In Nashville, we generally seem to use TIF to subsidize construction loans. The city should focus on how to deliver public goods with TIF, not build a few extra floors on a high-rise that is already being built.

Second, in Nashville TIF has been used on a project-by-project basis, meaning the increment only comes from the single property. There was an effort to change this process to a large district which freezes property tax revenue from say a 30 square mile area for 30 years. This also creates a silo of funding that feels a bit like an end run around the capital improvement budget for projects only in that area. 

That becomes especially concerning when talking about replicating many of those districts around the city. The project-by-project model puts less of our future revenue at risk and gives the Council better oversight. TIF projects should, whenever possible, require approval by the council. Council should not give away it’s oversight on 30 years of property tax revenue for large sections of the city under any circumstance.

Third, the city of Nashville has a chronically underfunded school system whose scarce resources have been strained by Tax Increment Financing. Metro Schools is required to receive 40% of all the property tax revenue that comes into the city and until our investment in education matches our investment in tourism, we should not promise away one dollar of future revenue that is allocated for schools. If we continue to use TIF, it should only apply to the remaining increment after the schools get their funds.

Finally, at the current moment, the property tax revenues are at an arbitrarily low amount. This is a result of Council adopting the lowest property tax rate in the history of consolidated government. Promising away future property tax revenue from the current baseline would be irresponsible. The city is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, bringing into the question the need for these types of incentives in the first place, but our infrastructure is not growing. Needed investments in our city are not being made and we would argue that the focus of this council should be on fixing the current revenue shortage before promising any future revenues away. There is currently a voluntary freeze on Tax Increment Financing agreements until this committee makes its recommendations. This freeze should continue, and no Tax Increment Financing agreement should be considered until the council and the mayor’s office have restored the property tax rate to a normal level.

Thank you for your work and for taking input from the public. 

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SEIU Kicks Off Series of “Roundtable Conversations” About Growth & Budget in Nashville!

MetroBudget2019_GreenHills-With nearly a hundred people moving to “It City” every day, how can Nashville experience such rapid growth and yet still struggle with a revenue shortfall?

This was the topic of discussion at a community meeting held at J.T. Moore Middle School in Green Hills. Hosted by SEIU Local 205, the roundtable discussion featured perspectives from Metro Council members, labor leaders, and city employees who are dealing with the direct impact of an exploding city population using limited resources.

The discussion began with some sobering statistics. In the last decade, the city’s population has increased by over 17%. This population growth brings with it a host of issues that require local government services and people to provide them and yet, Metro departments have lagged far behind the city’s growth curve. Some city departments like Public Works have essentially the same number of employees as they did in 2008.

Despite Nashville’s population explosion, a development boom, an overall increase in property values, and job growth, Nashville ended up with a revenue shortfall last year which resulted in Metro Schools receiving about $37 million dollars less than they asked for. Metro Government employees, who rely on cost-of-living raises to keep up, watched as their COLA raise was taken away even though the council had voted to approve it the previous year.

Several Metro employees participated in the roundtable discussion and shared their perspectives on how growth and budget shortfalls are impacting their work and their families. Alisa Franklin, a call taker at the Department of Emergency Communications, described a high-stress environment that results in burnout and high turnover. “Some of our call takers are working 12 to 16 hour days to make sure the city is served properly,” Franklin said. “We’ve got people who do that on a daily basis because we are dedicated.” She also described the department’s struggle with retaining good people since their starting salary is only $15.60 in one the most expensive urban markets in the state. “It’s hard for us to keep people here because they can go to work somewhere else for the same money doing easier work and not have all the stress.”

Panelist Chris Gill is a paraprofessional working in Metro Nashville Public Schools and assists children with developmental disabilities. Gill, a former U.S. Army captain, questioned how he and his co-workers – many of whom have college educations – are able to live in Davidson County with a salary that forces many of them to have second jobs. “I love my job, but I shouldn’t have to take a second job to keep my first job,” Gill said. “Everyone says ‘we appreciate your service’, but if you really appreciate our service, pay us what we’re worth.”

Tyrone Jolley works for Metro Water Services in the Development Services division, which is ground zero for the development boom in Music City. His office deals with project engineering, planning, permits, and inspections. “On any day of the week, you can come down to our office at 7:30 am and see a line of people waiting to get in,” Jolley said. “We used to have some slow periods but we haven’t seen any of that in the past four years. It is non-stop.” Jolley, who’s worked for Metro Water for over 20 years, received no raise in 2018.

Watch the comments from SEIU members here

Mark Young, local president of the International Association of Firefighters and James Smallwood, local president of the Fraternal Order of Police joined in the discussion with equally powerful statistics and stories about how a lack of funding is impacting public safety in Nashville. Whether it’s not having enough fire stations or enough police officers on the street, the failure to adjust the property tax rate as well as ongoing tax incentives to large corporations like Amazon, HCA, and others are literally putting Nashvillians at risk. A similar sentiment came from Erick Huth, president of Metro Nashville Education Association, who talked about the impact funding is having on public education in Nashville.

Councilmembers Russ Pulley, Angie Henderson, and Burkley Allen, who represent districts across West Nashville, participated in the discussion as well. When last year’s budget was being voted on, both Pulley and Henderson voted against an amended budget ordinance which would have adjusted the property tax and fully-funded Metro Schools along with city employees’ cost-of-living raises. Councilwoman Allen voted for the amended budget ordinance but ultimately it failed to pass by one vote. During an open q&a session, several attendees expressed frustration with city officials for playing politics over budget items. “Thank you for the clarification that getting elected is more important than doing the job you were elected to do,” said Lilldeus Russell, a city employee and mother who also offered a suggestion to the council members. “If we stop giving away our city to businesses which don’t need [tax incentives] and actually take care of the people who voted you into office, we wouldn’t be in this place.”

SEIU Local 205 plans to host several more roundtables on growth and the city budget across Davidson County over the next few months. For more information on future events, contact the union at 615-227-5070.

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SEIU & Allies to Metro Council: “Keep Your Promises & Pay Your Bills” to City Employees!

City employees and allies deliver a "past due invoice" for unpaid raises to the Metro Council.

City employees and allies deliver a “past due invoice” for unpaid raises to the Metro Council.

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), presented the Metro Council with an “invoice” of $38 million, which the public sector unions say would make city employees whole after the Council reneged on a pay plan which included cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in 2018 and 2019.

The General Government employee pay plan, which was developed after two years of study, was approved by the Metro Civil Service Commission and passed the Council by a vote of 34-1 in June, 2017. But last May, the mayor’s budget did not include the cost of living raises that were included in that pay plan, forcing the Council to write new ordinances that undid their previous vote on the pay plan.

Check out the complete video of the event.

The following remarks were made during the public comment period by Richard Tippit, a Metro employee who helped present the invoice to Metro Council members:

Members of Metro Council,

We’re here tonight to deliver you an invoice for services performed by the employees of Nashville Metro Government. In July of 2017, this Council passed a three-year pay plan that included annual cost of living adjustments. This pay plan was largely seen as attempting to make up for sacrifices made by Metro employees throughout the Great Recession.

Last year, because of a self-inflicted funding problem, this Council decided it wasn’t going to pay all of its bills. You paid every other bill – you even took on new bills – but you forgot to pay one of the most important. The men and women who keep the parks clean, keep our water running, keep the libraries open, repair our roads, pick-up our trash, answer 911 calls, put out the fires and keep our communities safe are owed a 3% cost of living adjustment for last year and a 3% adjustment for this year.

The total balance due is approximately $38 million in total, $18 million of that is past due. As you begin to discuss this year’s budget, you should know this bill remains unpaid, and your budgeting should start there.  Thank you.

Here’s a news report that aired on NewsChannel 5 featuring SEIU president Brad Rayson. Nashville Public Radio ran a brief report this morning as well.

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SEIU Member Named “Activist of the Year” by The Nashville Scene!

Odessa Kelly

Odessa Kelly at SEIU’s “Activist Day 2018”

Odessa Kelly, a member of SEIU Local 205 and an employee of Metro Parks and Recreation, was named “Activist of the Year” by Nashville Scene magazine.

By day, Odessa works as a recreation manager at Napier Recreation Center, which is located in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods. There, she supports and inspires kids every day by helping them with their homework and helping them acquire the skills and confidence they will need to thrive after they leave school.

When she’s not on the clock, Odessa has taken a lead role as a co-chair of Stand Up Nashville—a community non-profit which has, among other things helped draft the “Do Better Bill”. The legislation requires that before the Metro Council votes to give tax incentives to a company, the developers must release details about the jobs they claim will be created, including how many, what kind, whom they’ll hire, and what they’ll pay. This is landmark legislation for Nashville and for Tennessee.

Odessa was also one of the key players involved with the community benefits agreement (“CBA”) for the upcoming Major League Soccer stadium coming to Nashville. The CBA, which is a legally-binding agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings, requires the soccer group to provide affordable housing on the privately developed land and it sets a minimum wage of $15.50/hour for both construction workers and the employees who will eventually be hired by the soccer arena and its surrounding businesses.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, Odessa is also the co-chair of the economic equity branch of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope (“NOAH”). She was part of the team which helped push through Nashville’s Construction Readiness Partnership, an initiative to ensure that Nashvillians have the skills and access necessary should they want to be employed as part of the city’s construction boom.

Congratulations to Odessa on receiving this incredible award!

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Local 205 Vice-President Addresses Lawmakers @ First Metro Council “Public Comment” Session!

MetroCouncil_PublicComment-In the wake of a budget shortfall in Nashville and a bitter campaign by the city’s unions and community groups to get an amended budget passed, the Council began a new initiative – a “public comment” session – which permits members of the public to come before the government and speak about anything they want for two minutes.

It’s a new idea for the Metro Council, and one that SEIU took immediate advantage of. During the first night of “public comment”, Local 205’s executive vice-president, James Bradley, gave some prepared comments to the council. They touched on how he and other city employees felt about being betrayed by council members who had only a year earlier promised to fully fund a new pay plan. He also poked fun at how many council members refused to vote for a property tax adjustment (something that is a normal course of government operations in Metro) because there “wasn’t enough public input” by rattling off a list of questions that SEIU would like to have the council get input from us on over the next year while they run for re-election.

Here’s the full text of James’ comments (though he wasn’t able to complete them because time ran out):

“Good evening, members of the council. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address you this evening. My name is James Bradley and I serve as the executive vice-president of SEIU Local 205. My organization represents the men and women who work for so many of our public agencies including General Government departments, the Hospital Authority, Metro Action Commission, and we represent the support employees in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

First of all, on behalf of the thousands of city employees SEIU represents, I want to thank the 19 members of the council who voted in favor of Councilman Mendes’ budget two weeks ago. We appreciate your integrity and courage and we will not forget your support for us.

Having said that, we will also not forget the 20 council members who voted against us.

You are the people I would like to direct my public comments to this evening.

Two weeks ago when you voted on the budget, we heard your speeches about how there wasn’t enough “public input” on correcting the property tax rate. Every member of this council knows full well that correcting the tax rate has never had “public input” but if we have to have more “public input” on something that you all know is necessary for the city to do, let’s start with a couple of questions to get that ball rolling:

First, how do we explain to city employees who already took cuts to their pay and raises for four years that they have to do it again while we’re in a boom? I was one of the people whose taxes went up and then didn’t get a cost of living raise. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but when do these private developers start paying theirs?

Second, how do we explain that we couldn’t find the political will to fully fund our schools but we can find it to keep giving more TIF and PILOT deals to developers and corporations? Or for a water park at Opryland that only Opryland guests can use?

How do you justify asking Metro department heads to begin preparing budget reductions for next year when you are literally getting ready to vote tonight on another tax increment financing deal?

There’s a whole host of other questions too. Like where is the accountability on these TIF and PILOT deals? Which Metro department or office is tracking whether these companies are creating all the jobs they say they are? Is privatization saving us money or costing us more while quality goes down?

Hopefully, addressing these questions over the next year while many of you are campaigning will help educate and enlighten our teachers, firefighters, police officers, bus drivers, and General Government employees who live and vote in Davidson County.

We will be watching and trust me… we will be giving you and your political opponents our “public input” in 2019. I appreciate your time and again… thanks to those of you who voted for what was right, not for what was easy.”

Who Voted FOR Us on the Mendes budget?

Bob Mendes
Sharon Hurt
Erica Gilmore
Decosta Hastings
Brenda Haywood
Brett Withers
Anthony Davis
Bill Pridemore
Doug Pardue
Colby Sledge
Burkley Allen
Ed Kindall
Mina Johnson
Kathleen Murphy
Karen Johnson
Jason Potts
Fabian Bedne
Jacobia Dowell
Antoinette Lee
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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly with the Metro Budget

MetroGovt-sealThis has been one of the most contentious budget seasons in years due to a revenue shortfall, political upheaval in the mayor’s office, and chickens coming home to roost on bad economic policies made by short-sighted politicians over the last decade. SEIU has led the way in fighting for public employees as our members have reached out to their council members by email, phone, and in person. Here’s the good news and the bad news about what happened this year and a look at what lies ahead:

THE GOOD: New Raises Go Through + Stability In Employee Benefits

Several improvements did happen for Nashville’s public employees as a result of SEIU members’ hard work and the support of our allies, including —

  1. Metro employees who are eligible for step raises will still get them.
  2. In the schools, paraprofessionals will receive an upgrade/pay increase.
  3. Thanks to our allies on the benefit board, there is no increase in insurance costs to employees this year.
  4. Employees at Nashville General Hospital will receive a raise.
  5. Despite efforts from Councilman Glover to get rid of the paid family leave benefit, this remains intact.

THE BAD: The Mendes Budget Fails

As you know, Mayor Briley’s budget broke the existing pay plan and did not include the promised cost of living adjustments for this year or next year. It forced MNPS to cut $17 million from this year’s school budget and kept MNPS employees from getting any raise at all. Mayor Briley blamed the budget problems on an unexpected revenue shortfall. The shortfall was caused by Mayor Barry’s administration allowing the property tax rate to drop last year to the lowest rate in the history of Metro government.

For the past month, members of Local 205 have worked extremely hard to pass a substitute budget through the Metro Council that would honor the commitments made last year, and fully fund the MNPS budget. Councilman Bob Mendes proposed a budget that would have fixed the revenue shortfall by restoring the property tax rate to a historically normal level.

We fought hard and came within two votes of saving the cost of living increases and getting MNPS the money needed to fund employee raises.  In the end, 19 Members of the Metro Council stood with us, speaking loudly and clearly that the commitments they made should have been honored.

Below you can see how every member of Metro Council voted. We urge you to thank the members who stood with us:

YES:  Sharon Hurt, Brenda Haywood, Brett Withers, Bill Pridemore, Burkley Allen, Ed Kindall, Fabian Bedne, Erica Gilmore, Anthony Davis, Doug Pardue, Mina Johnson, Karen Johnson, Jacobia Dowell, Colby Sledge, Bob Mendes, DeCosta Hastings, Kathleen Murphy, Jason Potts, Antoinette Lee.

NO:  John Cooper, Steve Glover, Robert Swope, Jeff Syracuse, Russ Pulley, Tanaka Vercher, Angie Henderson, Scott Davis, Holly Huezo, Mike Freeman, Freddie O’Connell, Jeremy Elrod, Dave Rosenberg, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Davette Blalock, Nancy VanReece, Jim Shulman, Sheri Weiner

THE UGLY: We Will Have This Fight Again Next Year

Unfortunately, because the city did not adjust the property tax rate last year or this year, we will see another massive budget shortfall next year, regardless of the city’s growth. Since most of the council members have to run for re-election in 2019, it is difficult to imagine them voting to correct the property tax rate while they are campaigning. The city will also face approximately $125-$150 million in payments on the debt service to the Music City Center (which SEIU opposed).

While we will be working hard over the next year to push major reforms to prevent this from happening, our well-funded opponents from the business sector are also going to do whatever they can to keep your tax dollars flowing into their bank accounts through corporate welfare policies that only benefit them. We expect to be back at this again next spring, but here’s a few things we can do right now to strengthen our hand:

  1. Hold the council members who voted against us accountable – most are up for re-election next year.
  2. Become more active with the union in your workplace. That means recruiting more members and communicating our issues to your co-workers.
  3. Contribute to our political fund, COPE, which will help us elect better politicians next year.

To Learn More About the Outcome of this Year’s Metro Budget:

SEIU Comments on the Council Vote (Newschannel 5)

Article on the Budget Vote (The Tennessean)

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Metro Parks Union Members Awarded for Excellence!

Melissa Rucker & Odessa Kelly

Melissa Rucker & Odessa Kelly

SEIU members Melissa Rucker and Odessa Kelly were honored by Metro Parks and Recreation with employee awards in “dedication” and “community involvement”, respectively. Both are program coordinators and they were selected for recognition by their peers.

Congratulations to them and to find out more, visit Nashville.gov.

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Local 205 Endorses Daron Hall for Davidson County Sheriff

DCSO_SheriffHall-MembersService Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing employees of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), announced its endorsement of Daron Hall in his bid for re-election as county sheriff.

Hall has served four consecutive terms and three different mayoral administrations since he was first elected in 2002. During that time, corrections officers and other DCSO employees have seen steady increases in pay, better training, and improvements in their retirement benefits thanks in large part to the collaborative relationship SEIU has had with Sheriff Hall.

“We were glad to work with Daron on getting compression pay and salary increases for corrections officers over the last couple of years,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. “Corrections work is hard and it is always changing – we need someone in that office who will listen to the employees when they see that there are problems and work tirelessly to try and fix them,” Rayson said. “We applaud Sheriff Hall’s effort to decriminalize those with mental or substance issues who enter our jails and his efforts to provide treatment to this population.”

“Sheriff Hall has demonstrated a commitment to helping improve pay and benefits for his staff and a proven track record of being an effective administrator,” said Linda Knox, an SEIU member who served on the union’s political committee. “Nashville is growing by leaps and bounds and our city needs someone who is a proven leader who can deal with the challenges that are set in front of them.”

Election Day is on May 1, 2018 and early voting begins on April. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 615-862-8800.

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SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public sector employees across the state of Tennessee, including employees of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

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SEIU Helps Win “Paid Family Leave” Benefit for Metro Employees!

Thanks to ongoing advocacy by SEIU and its members, Metro Government employees in Nashville now receive paid family leave as part of their benefits package.

The new benefit allows Metro Government employees to have approximately six weeks of paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill spouse, parent, or child. The benefit is available for employees who have worked for Metro Government for at least 6 months. Employees did not have access to any paid family leave plan prior to passage. No state law in Tennessee or U.S. federal law currently provides for paid family leave.

The new benefit was made possible due to SEIU’s presence and activism on the Mayor’s Council On Gender Equity. The Council serves in an advisory capacity to Mayor Megan Barry and “will assess identified gender inequity issues and develop recommended solutions… that reflects the needs of all”.

Union members James Staub (Nashville Public Library) and Alisa Utley (Emergency Communications Center) were critical in the final stages of the Council’s work by providing testimony about the struggles they face. From the Council’s report:

Library_JamesStaub“…When [James’] wife found out they were expecting twins James began to worry about how he would juggle the needs of a demanding career and the needs of his family. They already had a toddler son at home and the juggling act of two working parents was difficult, before the twins. James knew that his boss would be as helpful as possible but he was concerned because he loved his job and he was good at it but he also wanted to be present in his family responsibilities. He was concerned that he would need to use all of his leave time to care for his family and then heaven forbid if he got sick himself he would be out of time and could therefore face disciplinary action.”

911_AlisaUtley“Alisa’s… mom was diagnosed with late term Leukemia. She was home bound and needed Alisa to take her to all her doctor appointments and treatments. Her Father was blind and had been cared for by her Mother but he too became dependent on Alisa for all of his daily needs. Alisa felt lucky to be able to work the overnight shift so she could care for both of her parents during the day. This went on for 8 years. During that period, the emotional stress of being a good employee and a good daughter was exhausting yet Alisa did it and continues to be a valuable employee to her department today. She says that she wished for flexibility of time so that she could have lessened the toll of caretaking and work.”

This is the end result of advocacy, action, and making politics work in favor of working people. Thanks to James and Alisa for sharing their stories with the Council On Gender Equity so that all Metro employees can enjoy this benefit which not only helps them and their families, but also ensures that the public continues to receive quality service.

The paid family leave benefit is the first item acted upon and passed by the Gender Equity Council. The Council will continue to be active for at least two more years.

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Metro Government Employees Win Raises, New Pay Plan, & New Benefits!

IMG_2728.JPGSEIU members from dozens of city departments filled the seats during the Metro Council’s Public Hearing on the city budget to make the case that public services and the people who provide them are vital to Nashville’s future.

“Having growth means nothing if regular folks can’t afford to raise a family and take part in the American Dream,” said union steward Tyrone Jolley. “Those are the priorities we need to keep focused on.”

Despite some controversy over the budget request for Nashville General Hospital, the Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the operating budget, pay plan, and other ordinances related to employees that Local 205 supported.

 

2017-2018 Budget Highlights:
METRO GOVERMENT Employees
  • 2% cost of living raise
  • Maintain step raises (2% for those eligible)
  • Shift differential increase (70¢/hr for evening shift, 80¢/hr for night shift)
  • Fund open-range raises
  • Three -year pay plan (2%, 3%, 3%).
  • Longevity pay distributed earlier (Nov. 15)
  • No cuts to department budgets, several new programs implemented

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