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:
“…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.”
“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.
SEIU 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
We are proud to report that Edna Jones was handily re-elected in the Metro Employee Benefit Board election which was held on May 25.
According to the unofficial results, Edna won with nearly 60% of the vote in a field of six candidates. She won all but one of the six voting precincts spread across Davidson County.
Edna would like to thank all of the members of Local 205 who campaigned for her and those who voted. “I am honored to have another three year term, an opportunity to protect and preserve our benefits, and to insure that your service pension is viable and available when you are ready to retire,” Edna said.
The Metro Employee Benefit Board, manages and administers city employee benefit plans as well as the retirement plans. They also hear reviews and appeals of injured-on-duty cases, disability cases, they oversee the structure and rates for employee and retiree health insurance plans, and they are a forum for any changes or adjustments to employee benefit programs including the pension. There are ten MEBB members. Half are appointed by the mayor and the other half are elected by the group of employees they represent. Edna is one of two representatives for General Government and MNPS employees.
Edna has the distinction of serving as chair of the MEBB for the most consecutive terms. Her current term takes effect once the election results are certified and accepted by the Civil Service Commission. She was elected to a three-year term which begins on July 1, 2017.
Sheriff Daron Hall and SEIU leaders discuss possibilities for a new pay structure @ the DCSO.
As the union for employees at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, Local 205 has been aggressive about improving the pay and training for corrections officers.
After a consistent effort by SEIU, the DCSO revised a policy related to the training program for newly-hired corrections officers. Now, their probationary period begins when the training period ends. This is projected to help make new officers safer and to help retain good officers.
The policy change went hand-in-hand with a restructuring of the corrections officer pay scale which SEIU had input on during the city’s overhaul of the Metro pay plan.
“We were glad to work with Sheriff Hall to come up with a way to increase pay for new and existing officers, and at the same time, expand the training program which should help keep us safe on the job,” said corrections officer and union steward Robert Gilmer.
SEIU members including Bryan Jones speak out against the open range expansion being proposed by Metro H.R.
Using staff at Nashville Public Library as a test case, SEIU asked city employees what they thought about Metro’s proposal to expand Open Range (also known as “merit pay”) in their new pay plan proposal.
The answer was a resounding “NO!” among those who would be affected.
In an informal survey conducted by librarian and union bargaining committee member Julie Burns, there were 21 responses and 20 of them were against the Open Range proposal.
In a separate petition drive among those who would be affected by the proposal, the Union got 33 signatures. “I was surprised and pleased that everyone who was asked to sign the petition opposing Open Range did so,” said Bryan Jones, a librarian who helped conduct the petition drive.
At a staff meeting in the Main library branch conducted by HR officials, not one employee spoke in support of Open Range and all comments were in opposition. (Listen to the meeting here).
The Civil Service Commission will continue to debate the entire pay plan proposal and is expected to vote on it in April.
UPDATE (April 12, 2016): Due to the activism and solidarity of library workers and SEIU’s efforts, Metro has removed the librarians from the open range expansion in their pay plan proposal! The plan which passed the Civil Service Commission leaves all librarians in the traditional stepped pay plan.
The Metro Bargaining Committee. From l-r: Rick Beasley, Julie Burns, Greg Hanserd, Trina Jordan, Daryl Hawkins, Robert Gilmer.
After multiple meet-and-confer sessions between Metro officials and the union’s Bargaining Committee, the Civil Service Commission approved a six-month extension of the current Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Nashville and Local 205. The agreement, among other things, ensures that SEIU continue to represent the best interests of General Government employees.
The union will be working on getting a more comprehensive agreement later in the year and we encourage members who work in the Metro General Government departments to attend the monthly chapter meetings (third Tuesday at 5:00 pm) to learn more about the process and the issues at stake for city employees.