Metro General Government


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) 

Despite Threats on Several Fronts, SEIU “Survives and Thrives” In Metro Government in 2015!

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

“They’ve been throwing everything and the kitchen sink at us all year and we’ve not only survived, we’ve thrived,” says Antonio McKissack, a water maintenance leader who serves as the chief union steward for Local 205’s Metro chapter.

Antonio, who his friends call “A.T.”, is talking about the victories that SEIU has faced on several fronts in 2015. Thanks to the organization and activism of its members working in Metro Government, the union has protected the pension, stopped radical changes to the pay plan, and helped push forward pay increases for all Metro employees.

Pension & Health Benefits

The threat to employee benefits began over a year ago when the mayor’s Study & Formulating Committee defied their mandate from the Metro Council and began a “full review” of employee pension and health benefits.  For that, the committee lined up the Washington DC-based Pew Trusts, which is funded by former Enron executive John Arnold. Arnold’s project has caused disruption to local and state pension systems across the country, but thanks to big turnout by workers at the Study & Formulating Committee meetings and an aggressive lobbying program, SEIU has stopped any cuts to the pension for current and future employees.

Having lost the fight on the city pension, which is one of the most profitable and well-funded in the country, the committee turned its attention to the employee medical plan. And yet, despite a misleading media campaign about the Metro plan’s “unfunded liability”, SEIU has stopped any major cuts or changes to the health insurance benefits for employees. Meanwhile, changes to future retiree health plans may yet still happen depending on the actions of the Benefit Board and the council over the summer and fall. Also this year, SEIU supported the first expansion of employee benefits in years; the domestic partner benefit, which passed the Metro Council overwhelmingly.

The Pay Study

While the threat to employee benefits played out, another study was going on related to Metro employee pay. A comprehensive study of Metro employee pay and benefits, which was done by consulting firm DeLoitte, was the first of its kind in over a decade and included surveys and other analysis that resulted in several significant findings – some good for employees, some not so good. One positive recommendation from the pay study was to increase the salaries of jobs which were “in crisis” because they were 20%  or more behind their “peers” (the market standard for that particular job). SEIU helped get some of those job classifications onto the consultants’ radar because of our members’ research and recommendation. As a result of SEIU members’ activism, workers in the Health, Water, and 911 departments as well as corrections officers in the DCSO received extra pay increases.

Meanwhile, another recommendation of the DeLoitte pay study would have reclassified many existing Civil Service employees to become “open-range” employees, which means they would no longer be eligible for step raises. SEIU opposed expanding an open-range (also known as “merit pay”) system in Metro for several reasons—a lack of consistent funding, the arbitrary nature of merit pay, and because most research has shown that merit pay does not improve performance in the public sector. SEIU would not budge on our opposition to this proposal and the Dean Administration ultimately abandoned it.

Employee Pay and Raises

When it came to employee pay, this year’s Metro budget included several improvements for city employees, thanks in no small part to the strategic and consistent activity by members of Local 205.

All city employees received a 2.5% cost of living (COLA) raise. Employees who were eligible for increment (“step”) raises received them, which represents an increase of between 1-3%. Employees classified as “open range” received between 0-3% and eligible employees in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office received compression pay.

In the run-up to the vote on the budget, SEIU members met with council members to talk to them about the love they have for public service as well as the struggles they face. They also educated the council about the value and importance of a strong employee benefit system that rewards loyalty and service to the public.

“I am so proud of my brothers and sisters for their hard work and persistence,” says McKissack. “Our stewards and activists rose to the challenge and worked hard to protect their departments and get good raises for all city employees. We still have some things to get fixed for next year, but we are on a roll.”


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Some Good, Some Bad in the Metro Pay Study and SEIU Is On Top Of It!

911 dispatcher Rick Beasley, who serves on the union's bargaining committee, addresses the Civil Service Commission about the employee pay plan.

911 dispatcher Rick Beasley, who serves on the union’s bargaining committee, addresses the Civil Service Commission about the employee pay plan.

A comprehensive study of Metro employee pay and benefits, which was done by consulting firm Deloitte, was the first of its kind in over a decade and produced several significant recommendations – some good, some bad – and SEIU Local 205 was there every step of the way to make sure public employees were protected.

SEIU Supports Increases for “In Crisis” Jobs

One positive recommendation from the pay study was to increase the salaries of jobs which were “in crisis” because they were 20%  or more behind their “peers” (the market standard for that particular job). SEIU helped get some of those job classifications onto the consultants’ radar because of our members’ research and recommendation. As a result of SEIU members’ activism, workers in the Health, Water, and 911 departments as well as corrections officers in the DCSO received extra pay increases.

SEIU Opposes Expansion of Merit Pay

Meanwhile, another recommendation of the Deloitte pay study would have reclassified many existing Civil Service employees to become “open-range” employees, which means they would no longer be eligible for step raises. SEIU opposed expanding an open-range (also known as “merit pay”) system in Metro for several reasons—a lack of consistent funding, the arbitrary nature of merit pay, and because most research has shown that merit pay does not improve performance in the public sector. SEIU would not budge on our opposition to the merit pay proposal and the Dean Administration ultimately abandoned it. As a result, no pay study recommendations that were detrimental to city employees passed the Civil Service Commission or went on to the council.

The union will continue to work on implementation of several other positive recommendations of the pay study moving forward into the next administration and council.

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Workers in Metro Parks Get Time Restored Thanks to Pro-Active Member!

When snow and ice blanketed Middle Tennessee in February and March, Metro Parks – like many other city departments – wrestled with how to keep services going without putting employees at risk unnecessarily. But what the Parks department came up with wasn’t consistent. When the Mayor ordered the parks and community centers closed, most employees were not penalized and they were granted administrative leave to make sure they didn’t lose any pay or accrued time. But the rule wasn’t applied equally. Custodians and groundskeepers at several facilities, for example, were forced to use their own comp or vacation days instead of being given the option of using admin. leave like other staff.

Frustrated with the unfairness of that procedure, a Parks employee who is a member of Local 205 picked up the phone and called the Union office to tell us about it. An SEIU representative contacted Parks administration to try and get clarity on what happened and why. In the end, Parks officials chalked it up to a misunderstanding and as a result, those custodians and groundskeepers had their comp and vacation days returned to them. “It just didn’t seem fair that they would penalize us for missing a day of work because of the weather – especially when it was the Mayor who ordered the facilities shut down,” said the Parks department union member. “And then, to find out that the other staff didn’t lose any days while we did… well, that was uncalled for. We are all city employees and we need to be treated the same in a situation like that.”

It is important that when situations like this arise, that employees take a pro-active role and let the Union know about it. Whether that means talking to a Shop Steward or calling the Union office directly, workers should never assume that the Local knows what is going on in their area. We can’t be everywhere at once and we can’t help fix a problem if we don’t know there’s a problem in the first place. Luckily, in this case, our member was pro-active and as a result, he and his co-workers had their time restored.

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Union Wins Grievance, Health Department Member Gets Out-Of-Class Pay!

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Richard Smiley, who works in one of the Health Department clinics. Richard was trying to help out his section and his co-workers by agreeing to serve as an interim supervisor while the department recruited a permanent replacement. The Civil Service Rules for the Health Department say that if someone is assigned duties that are above and beyond their job classification, they are to receive out-of-class pay. Well, Richard did not get his out-of-class pay.

When he spoke with administrators about it, they essentially ignored him, saying that since he wasn’t a nurse, he wasn’t qualified to do the supervisor job (even though they’d been letting him work that position for over two months!) To Richard, this was a ridiculous argument, but he was more frustrated about being ignored. So he contacted SEIU. The union filed a grievance, an investigation was done, and Richard won—just in time to have some extra money in his check before Christmas. This was the second grievance in six months that SEIU has won against the Health Department.


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SEIU Protects Employee Privacy, Brings Halt to Fingerprinting & Biometric Data Gathering

As Metro Government began the transition to recording time and attendance with the Kronos timekeeping system, workers wondered why they were being asked to give their thumbprints to clock in and out. After all, there were already several other useful methods for clocking in including time cards, ID badges, using a computer, or by being counted in a roll call or by a supervisor signing them in.

A Union committee, which included the Local’s attorney and organizer as well as the Metro Chief Steward and a Bargaining Committee member, met with HR officials to discuss the situation and submitted a list of questions about the Kronos system, personal privacy, liability issues, and why the need for fingerprinting non-public safety employees was necessary when there were already effective timekeeping methods that would work.

A week later, Metro HR announced that they would immediately stop gathering biometric data on employees and that all fingerprint data that had been collected so far would be destroyed.

“I am so glad that Metro worked with us on this,” said Julie Burns, a librarian at the Nashville Public Library who also serves on the Union’s bargaining committee. “This was causing a lot of stress for some of my co-workers, especially when there was never a need for people to have to do this just to clock in and out of work.”

Kronos will still be a part of Metro’s system, but there will be no more fingerprinting involved.


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Fact Check: SEIU Responds to Pew Presentation on Pension & Retiree Medical Benefits

David Draine presents Pews findings to the Study & Formulating Committee in Nashville.

David Draine presents Pew’s findings to the Study & Formulating Committee in Nashville.

On a Friday afternoon, while city employees were still at work and unable to attend, the Study & Formulating Committee met to hear a presentation from Pew Charitable Trusts about the pension and health benefits of Metro employees. And as usual, the committee chair carefully chose questions that fits with the adminstration’s narrative which wrongfully suggests that there is some kind of funding or solvency crisis because of employee benefits that requires “reform”.

Tennessean columnist Frank Daniels, a Dean booster who fretted back in November that the committee might not get to finish its work (even though their work was technically completed back in late summer when they delivered their recommendations on a domestic partner benefit), was contacted by SEIU after the committee met with information that was not brought up or was misrepresented by administration and Pew officials. Here is the statement that SEIU’s Mark Naccarato sent to The Tennessean’s Frank Daniels, which as you can tell by the column Daniels wrote, was largely ignored:

With respect to the $2.4B unfunded liability from medical costs that Pew talked about and which The Tennessean reported on in September, here is some important context missing yesterday:

  • Virtually all cities and states have unfunded liabilities for retiree health care benefits. Unfunded liabilities of this type do not affect a municipality’s credit rating since they ordinarily operate on a “pay as you go” basis. By failing to place these liabilities in context, the committee and Pew are creating  a manufactured crisis over “the Big Scary Number” of unfunded medical liability costs (in this case, it’s $2.4 billion). The truth is that worrying over an unfunded liability for medical costs is no different than panicking because you have a mortgage on your house. If you pay your mortgage every month as you go and don’t miss payments, you are fine. You would only be in a financial crisis if suddenly the bank asked you to pay the entire balance of your mortgage at once with cash. That’s the same thing with unfunded medical liability costs – they are only a concern if for some reason, the entire city workforce retired or got a serious illness at the same time. This is a statistical impossibility, so again, the Big Scary Number is in fact, not so scary.
  • Mr. Riebeling did not address the fact that, in the last two years, Metro employee health insurance premiums have not gone up. This is due to several factors, including the Affordable Care Act, but it is worth asking Mr. Riebeling and Mr. Shmerling: If health care costs are so explosive and are such a large concern, then why have employee premiums decreased over the last two years? The fact that this important positive trend was ignored yesterday reinforces our belief that there is a political agenda, not a policy agenda, at work. Also indicative of a political agenda: this is the third “study” of employee benefits in five years, all during the Dean Administration.
  • It is also worth noting that retiree health care benefits don’t enjoy the same legal protections that say, pension benefits do, so future governments do have the ability to adjust them than they do accrued pension benefits. Having said that, we have to come back to the notion that the Big Scary Number – unfunded medical liability – is not expected to affect the long-term fiscal health or credit rating of the city in and of itself.

With regards to the pension, it seems that there is a concerted effort to try to persuade the public and legislators that any changes to the current Defined Benefit (“DB”) pension plan would only affect new employees. This is not the case and when Mr. Draine from Pew was asked about this yesterday, he dodged the question. If the city creates a separate system and puts its new employees into a Defined Contribution (“DC”) plan or a hybrid plan (similar to the State of Tennessee’s), several things will happen:

  • Paying benefits of current employees in the DB pension plan will become more expensive as a result of what pension actuaries call “transition costs.” Without new young members (and their contributions) coming into the existing pension fund, the pension plan would have only older and retired workers in it. Over time, the investment horizon of the plan managers would shrink and more assets would have to be in liquid form, ready to convert into pension checks. These shifts would lower investment returns and require more taxpayer contributions to meet pension obligations. This raises a serious concern in the future that employees who have retired or close to retirement would have their pension checks cut.
  • The switch to a DC plan would mean higher fees (charged by investment firms who manage DC savings plan options) than with a DB pension pool and lower investment returns. There is a large research literature (e.g., by Towers Watson) on the great cost effectiveness of DB plans. The National Institute on Retirement Security estimated in a  2014 study that DC plans cost nearly twice in contributions to achieve the same retirement benefit.
  • The city is about halfway through a comprehensive pay study and what they already know is that retirement and health benefits – especially the DB pension plan – are the primary attractor for (and retainer of) talent in Metro. If Metro stops offering a DB plan, what is it going to do to keep attracting talent? Especially now that the economy is improving and workers have more job options? Will the city have to increase pay to offset its cut to benefits? How do you explain to someone who’s been working for Metro for 30 years that the new employee who just got hired is making more money than they are? Despite the politically expedient comments offered up yesterday, cutting the DB plan or changing to a hybrid or a DC plan will absolutely affect recruiting and employee morale in a negative way. This has already happened in cities and states where they have closed DB plans for new employees and it will happen here as well.

All of the topics I just mentioned above about the pension plan were discussed at the last meeting of the Study & Formulating Committee in September which you were not at. I can assure you that everyone in the room – including Pew and the city’s actuaries at BPSM – all agreed that putting new hires into a new plan gives the city the same or increased costs and less security. At the last meeting, the tone of the committee and everyone else involved was basically that changing the DB plan (even for future employees) was a non-starter. Which is why all of us were shocked yesterday when Mr. Shmerling brought this up again and seemed to act as if all of that discussion never happened.

I’m not sure if Mr. Riebeling or Mr. Shmerling have made you aware of this, but Nashville’s pension fund is well-funded and in 2013 it had nearly 19% ROI which puts it in the top five pension plans in the U.S. of all cities and states. Some of that has to do with getting out from under the losses that everyone took during the Great Recession, some of it has to do with savvy investment decisions by Metro, and some of it has to do with the minor changes that the unions agreed to that were proposed by the last Study & Formulating Committee. The point is… why would you want to fix something that isn’t broken? Even Mr. Draine agreed (both yesterday and at the last committee meeting in September) that the city’s pension plan was not a major cause for concern from a cost or sustainability perspective. His charts and graphs showed as much yesterday. Again, we see a political motive here, not a case that can be justified from a financial or policy standpoint.

We are very concerned that the state of the city’s benefit system is being portrayed as being in some of kind of crisis situation when it is anything but. There are ideologues – including John Arnold, who is funding Pew’s work – who have an interest in seeing public employee benefits weakened. There are several motives for this, one of which is that it is in the interests of private employers to see benefits diluted so that businesses are not forced to keep up to attract talent. Metro is the county’s second largest employer and if their benefit package is less enticing, then there is no reason for say, HCA or Vanderbilt to keep theirs as competitive – that’s money in the bank for them.  And I think you know by now since SEIU has already talked to Tennessean reporters about this that this “review” by Pew isn’t specific to Nashville. Thanks to funding by Mr. Arnold, Pew has a whole division that is barnstorming the country giving reports to cities and states just like what we heard yesterday.

We believe that this is a campaign to scare taxpayers into thinking that public employee benefits are unsustainable and that there has to be a change. In Nashville, we see little to no justification for “fixing” employee benefits, though we do see a financial motive (access to new capital for risk-prone investors) a business motive (diluting the benefits of a large city workforce benefits private companies’ bottom line), and a political motive (weakening benefits weakens the bargaining position of the labor unions and employee associations who represents the workers) to “reform” the benefit package. Simply put, there is no objective reason to accept these proposals from Pew. Now, there is a whole other discussion to be had about Nashville’s fiscal health over the coming decades as a result of the fiscal policies of the Dean Administration, but we strongly believe – and I think most people would if they had all the facts – that working families should not have to pay for irresponsible spending decisions made by politicians. Especially when those decisions have resulted in nearly $1 billion in tax breaks and subsidies being handed out to corporations that are already located in Nashville and who are making big profits.

Keep in mind too that most of the “reforms” that were suggested yesterday would only affect General Government employees, not public safety employees. You should know if you don’t already that General Government workers don’t make as much money overall as public safety employees and they are made up of more minority workers as well. What kind of message does it send to the community that the city is considering cuts (and yes, we are talking about cuts here – not improvements) to the benefits of a workforce which is lower-paid and has a higher percentage of minorities?

Mr. Daniels, when we read your column about this topic back in November, it seemed as if you were only getting one side of the story on this discussion. I know you are on deadline to try and write a column, but at some point, we really would like to have a conversation to go deeper on these issues as the stakes are high for thousands of hard-working city employees and their families, not to mention the citizens who expect high-quality services.

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Member Spotlight: Exie Harrington

Exie Harrington: Circulation Assistant for Nashville Public Library.

Exie Harrington: Circulation Assistant for Nashville Public Library.

Exie Harrington may work at a library, but when it comes to union activism, she sure knows how to make some noise!

Exie, a circulation assistant at one of Nashville’s 20 branch libraries, joined SEIU back in 2012 and immediately tried to get more involved to build her union. Whether it was attending meetings or signing up her co-workers, Exie flew the union flag every day on the job—even though her worksite was not a particular “trouble spot” with a lot of employee grievances or issues.

It wasn’t long though, before Exie was directly affected by a new directive from the State of Tennessee. Governor Haslam issued new “navigator rules” as political retaliation against the Affordable Care Act which could have fined library employees, as well as healthcare workers, pastors, volunteers, and other public employees for assisting people who were trying to access information about the ACA. “In theory, if someone came to my library and asked where they could sign up for Obamacare, and I pointed them to information online, I could have gotten a fine,” Exie explained. “We show patrons every day how to sign up for housing and other public assistance and we have never had problems, but when it came to Obamacare… well, lets just say that there were some people who wanted to see it fail and they were willing to bully people to make it happen.” Exie was a co-plaintiff in a complaint made in Federal court against the state in a case known as “Harrington v. Haslam” and ultimately, the Governor’s office was forced to settle with plaintiffs in what was clearly a politically-motivated overreach and Haslam’s new navigator rules were suspended. The case set a national precedent that cleared the way in other states to prevent right-wing governors from blocking access to a lawful federal program.

For her courage, Exie was nominated for and won the 2014 Intellectual Freedom Award from the Tennessee Library Association—an award that salutes leaders in free speech and intellectual freedom. “This was a highlight of my career, but the real honor was making sure that people who need affordable healthcare can get it without interference from immoral legislators.”

Exie also serves as Assistant Chief Steward for the union’s Metro Government chapter and she’s an alternate on the local’s Executive Board.

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Metro Chapter Supports DCSO’s “Toys for Tots” Campaign

SEIU steward Robert Gilmer (left) presents Dan Weikal with a $500 contribution from the Metro chapter to the DCSO’s “Toys for Tots” campaign.

SEIU steward Robert Gilmer (left) presents Dan Weikal with a $500 contribution from the Metro chapter to the DCSO’s “Toys for Tots” campaign.

SEIU Local 205 was proud to be a co-sponsor of The Motorcycle Run, a fundraising event held by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to raise money for Toys For Tots.

Metro chapter union members voted to contribute $500 towards the event.

“I am so thankful and proud to be a part of this great cause, which would not be possible without committed people who believe in our mission” said SEIU member Jack Byrd, a DCSO corrections officer who spearheaded the effort.

This was the highest grossing year for the event, doubling the amount that was raised last year. Over 2100 toys and $13,000 was raised by the DCSO with SEIU’s help and all the money stays in Middle Tennessee with 100% going to Toys for Tots.

Funds that were raised didn’t just go to toys. Coats, clothing, shoes, and hygiene items were also purchased. The donation from the SEIU Metro chapter was the campaign’s second largest gift received by a single contributor.

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Nashville Public Employees Respond to Pew Report on Benefits

Close to 200 Metro employees and SEIU members packed the Howard School Building to hear Pew's proposal for benefit changes for city employees.

Close to 200 Metro employees and SEIU members packed the Howard School Building to hear Pew’s proposal for benefit changes for city employees.

Workers on Public Employee Pension and Health Systems: “It Ain’t Broke… Don’t Fix It”

Hundreds of Nashville firefighters, nurses, law enforcement officers, librarians, water technicians, school employees, and other public service workers and retirees spoke out against a proposal by Pew Charitable Trusts to cut public employee and retiree benefits at a meeting of the Study and Formulating Committee.

Pew issued an interim report that explored a proposal for Metro Nashville to close its existing defined-benefit pension plan and shift future employees into a state pension plan that is a combination – or “hybrid” – of a traditional pension and a 401(k)-type defined-contribution plan. A hybrid proposal would shift more of the costs onto employees, who make on average about $33,000/ year according to a recent compensation study. “A lot of us have to take second jobs to make ends meet and many of us are single moms,” said Vanessa Sanders, a labor and delivery nurse at General Hospital. “After taxes, transportation, health insurance, and all the other necessities, we just cannot afford to have more money come out of our paychecks for a retirement contribution.”

Many questioned the need for any changes after the city conducted a similar study of employee benefits in 2012 in which several key adjustments to the plan were already made. Recently, Metro’s actuaries revealed that the city’s defined benefit plan is 83% funded, putting it in the top tier of public pension funds. CNBC reported that in 2013, the Nashville plan’s investment returns were the fifth highest of all city and state plans in the U.S. In other cities and states that have shifted to a “hybrid” type like the one proposed by Pew, costs to taxpayers increased while benefits for beneficiaries decreased. “If changing the system is actually going to cost the city more money and deliver less of a benefit to workers, why the heck would we do it,” asked Rick Beasley, a 911 dispatcher. “It sounds to me like Pew is creating a “lose-lose” situation that leaves taxpayers and employees paying more and getting less.”

“It ain’t broke, and we don’t need Pew fixing it,” said Jack Byrd, a corrections officer. Pew’s work has been funded by a foundation organized by billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron executive and hedge fund manager. Some have criticized Arnold’s efforts, saying that hedge fund managers like Arnold collect generous sums in fees for managing the funds while workers are left with reduced pension benefits.

The Service Employees International Union, Local 205, which represents thousands of Metro employees across dozens of city departments, agencies, and in Metro schools, made it clear that it opposes any changes to employee benefits. “Pew and their allies are proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Doug Collier, president of Local 205. “If there are any cuts that need to happen in Nashville, it should be to the tax breaks and corporate welfare being handed out to millionaires.”

Pew officials ultimately admitted in their interim report to the Study & Formulating Committee that Metro’s pension is in “solid financial shape,” but did find significant concerns with the unfunded liability the city has as a result of its retiree medical program. The Committee announced that Pew’s work in ongoing and another report is expected in the coming months to examine some remaining issues. The Committee’s next meeting date has not been announced yet.

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Grievance Victory Exposes Problems in Hiring at Metro Health Department!

Should the Metro Public Health Department hire the most qualified applicants or should they hire whoever gives the best interview—regardless of credentials, experience, or qualifications?

This was only one of the core issues at stake when MPHD decided to hire someone from outside of the Health Department after several qualified internal applicants applied for a job in the STD division.

Charncey Springer, who was headed for unemployment with the demise of the New Life Fatherhood Program, applied for a position that was posted “for MPHD employees only” and was shocked to discover that he and nine other current department employees were passed over in favor of someone from outside of Metro who had little to no experience in this particular job.

Charncey contacted SEIU and filed a grievance. Rather wait until the grievance was resolved, the Health Department hired the outside candidate.

To make matters worse, H.R. did not do a reference check of the new employee until after she was hired and after Charncey’s grievance was filed. The Union’s investigation of the case turned up some shady hiring practices that members of the Board found “concerning,” including the following findings by the Personnel Committee:

  • The hiring practices at MPHD are not transparent.
  • A transparent, objective process for hiring is not currently being utilized.
  • The value of placing current employees facing layoffs in vacancies is not conveyed to hiring supervisors as a value trumping more minor preferences for hiring external candidates.
  • The reference checking process revealed during the hearing of this appeal is concerning. No references provided by the successful applicant were checked prior to hiring. Just as concerning, when, after the grievance at issue was filed, only one reference was obtained.

In the end, the Board of Health ruled that the Department had violated the Civil Service Rules and directed MPHD to appoint Charncey to the position if he still wanted it.

Charncey was represented in his grievance at all stages by SEIU. The union files grievances on behalf of employees when applicable but can only do so for dues-paying members. Congratulations to Charncey on his new position with MPHD! Here’s what Charncey had to say about his experience working with SEIU to address his issue:

“My name is Charncey Springer. I am an employee of the Metro Public Health Department here in Nashville, Tennessee and member of SEIU Local 205. As an affiliate of the local chapter of SEIU, I think it is important to be a part of an organization that always looks out for your best interest as an employee; an organization that goes out of its way to know how your company operates so that you can work in a safe and just environment.

I recently needed the assistance of my local chapter in a situation regarding employee placement. My concerns focused on the health department’s policy behind its hiring practice and what should be done to ensure that the most qualified individual is selected for the position.

Through the cooperation of the health department along with the diligent work and investigation of my SEIU representatives, we were able to discover some errors in the Civil Service guide that were in much need of clarification for the sake of accuracy as well equity toward all employees in a situation such as this. As a result, a grievance was filed and a hearing was conducted by the Board of Health where fact finding took place to ensure that issue was addressed.

In the end, my grievance was up held and the administrative staff of the health department began drawing up provisions to ensure that in the future, the best candidates for employment are selected. I’m almost certain that I would not have been able to do this without the assistance of my local reps Mark Naccarato and SEIU Union attorney Brad Rayson. I encourage anyone who is considering becoming a part of a SEIU to take the plunge and be a part of an organization that will ensure that while working in this great country, you as a worker will receive due process in all matters of employment as well as help protect the integrity of the work place. Thank you.”

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