Metro General Government

ChapterLogo_Metro

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) 

Metro Government & Local 205 Extend Labor Agreement

The Metro Bargaining Committee. From l-r: Rick Beasley, Julie Burns, Greg Hanserd, Trina Jordan, Daryl Hawkins, Robert Gilmer.

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.

 

Leave a comment

SEIU Supports Most (But Not All) Of the New Pay Plan Proposal for Metro Employees

At the February meeting of the Metro Civil Service Commission, representatives from SEIU Local 205 spoke at the public hearing on a new pay plan being proposed by the Human Resources department. The new pay plan affects thousands of city employees across dozens of General Government departments and was developed as the result of the Deloitte pay study conducted in 2014-2015, which SEIU participated in at several key stages.

The proposed pay plan for Metro General Government employees includes many improvements that Local 205 has been loudly advocating for over the last several years. Among other things, there are real pay increases for thousands of employees in the SR and TG classifications. The Union also supports the reclassification and upgrades for corrections officers at the DCSO and upgrades for 911 staff at the Emergency Communications Center.

One part of the current proposal that SEIU does not support is an expansion of open range classifications across Metro. Based on academic research and from feedback the Union got from Metro employees, adding more open range classifications to the pay plan does not help current employees or improve services to the public. The Union also raised concerns about the methodology of some of Deloitte’s findings in the pay study for the ECC as well as a recent effort by the Health Department to resist upgrades for some of its staff.

Click HERE to see SEIU’s presentation about the proposed Metro pay plan!

“Most of the proposals in this pay plan proposal gets a thumbs-up from our members,” said Brad Rayson, president of Local 205. “Salary increases for the lower pay grades are a long-time coming after the sacrifices city employees made during the Great Recession. But there are still some concerns we would like to see addressed and we hope that the Civil Service Commission takes action on those.”

SEIU had been involved in the pay plan process from the very beginning. Union members across the departments wrote up proposals for certain positions to be reviewed and upgraded and that information was submitted to both Deloitte and to Metro. Many of the Union’s recommendations were supported by the pay study as early as last year when an extra 3% pay increase was implemented for the benchmarked positions. The Union’s bargaining committee and staff representatives met multiple times throughout the development of the pay plan proposals as well and employees have continued to have a pipeline to information and updates on the process through SEIU at monthly chapter meetings and even special called meetings.

The Civil Service Commission will continue to review the pay plan proposal and is expected to vote on some kind of modified proposal at their next meeting on March 8. Whatever is approved by the Commission will then proceed to council as legislation and the new plan could be enacted early enough to take effect as part of this year’s city budget.

Comments Off on SEIU Supports Most (But Not All) Of the New Pay Plan Proposal for Metro Employees

The Effort to Gut Metro Employee Benefits Fails!

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.

After a nearly two-year struggle, we are happy to report that the Metro Employee Benefit Board has rejected any cuts to the pension or retiree health benefits for Metro employees!

At their meeting on Oct. 6, the Benefit Board weighed the proposal from Mayor Dean’s Study and Formulating Committee as well as the input from SEIU and decided that it was unfair for firefighters and police to be allowed to keep their medical coverage upon reaching Medicare eligibility while the rest of the city’s employees would be cut off from health insurance when they retired. The Benefit Board voted against the Study Committee’s recommendation, despite a major P.R. push by the Mayor and his allies to convince the public of a “crisis” in unfunded liability for employee benefits which SEIU debunked.

Unless the new mayor or Metro Council decides to revisit this issue, major changes to employee benefits are now effectively dead. You’ll remember that SEIU was able to get any cuts to the employee pension stopped over the summer by an aggressive campaign against the Pew group and the Dean Administration. That victory was only possible because our members turned out and they were vocal about protecting the benefits they earned.

Meanwhile, the Benefit Board did vote in favor of a new lump-sum payout option that the union supports. There are pros and cons to this new option, but the important thing is that the final decision about whether to use it is up to the employee and it is not mandatory. We urge city employees to get more information about this benefit as details are rolled out – assuming it gets approved by the Metro Council.

Thank you to our members who turned out to meetings and talked to their elected officials about these issues and helped secure a major victory. Please tell your non-union co-workers that the reason their benefits are secure is because your Union fought hard to protect them!

Leave a comment

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.”

 

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

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

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.

 

Leave a comment

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.

 

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment