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Big Election Wins for Union-Endorsed Candidates!

Katrina Robinson and SEIU member Russ Anthony.

Katrina Robinson and SEIU member Russ Anthony.

The August 2018 election season saw some pro-labor candidates win their races and SEIU was proud to have supported them.

In Memphis, the union’s endorsed candidate for State Senate, Katrina Robinson, won her primary election. Because Katrina has no Republican opponent in November, she will be the next State Senator for District 33.

After serving as a registered nurse at Methodist Healthcare in Memphis, Robinson went on to found the Healthcare Institute – a vocational training school which has since become the only independently-owned licensed nursing program in the state of Tennessee. Robinson currently serves as chair of the Shelby County Government Ethics Commission and is involved in various government and business program initiatives designed to increase support for minority and women owned businesses.

In the Nashville school board elections, Gini Pupo-Walker, a community organizer and former educator, won her race for the District 8 seat. Gini was endorsed by SEIU and made history as the first Hispanic person elected to the MNPS School Board.

The next major election is the 2018 General Election across the state on Tuesday, November 7. As always, we urge our members and their families, friends and co-workers to vote for pro-union, pro-labor candidates in any party whenever they can. To vote in the General Election, you must be registered 30 days in advance. To register to vote or update your information, contact the state Election Commission or call them at 877-850-4959. If you would like to participate in SEIU’s political programs or volunteer on a campaign, contact our political director Jason Freeman.

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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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ACTION ALERT — Join the Fight to Protect Nashville’s Schools and Public Employees!

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Metro’s 2018 Revenue Crisis Asks Public Employees and Schools to Pay the Price for Bad Economic Decisions Made Over the Past Decade!

Despite unparalleled growth and prosperity, Nashville faces a revenue shortfall which threatens funding for city employee raises and millions of dollars that are desperately needed for our public schools.

A decade of corporate welfare, massive capital projects that haven’t lived up to the hype, interference by the state legislature, and a culture of putting business interests instead of the people’s interests have brought Nashville to the brink. It is time for elected officials to do the right thing and find a way to fix these problems that don’t force public employees and retirees to pay the price.

What You Can Do … Call or Write to a Metro Council Member!

Click to CALL or EMAIL a Metro Council member about this year’s budget.

We encourage you to tell your own personal story about what it means to be denied a raise or the impact these cuts will have on our children, but if you prefer another message, try one of these by copying & pasting into your email text or by leaving a voicemail…

  • Nashville’s a “boomtown”, but only for the wealthy and they don’t need our help. It’s no secret that many of us are being priced out of our homes by this “boom” and a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that a family of four needs to earn about $80,000 to live in Nashville today. Not giving us a raise makes us fall behind even more and could force hard-working people to move out of the county. That just makes our revenue problems worse and does not respect the sacrifices that working families have been making for the city all these years.
  • The city’s first obligation is to its citizens and city services – not to corporate special interests. We’ve spent 10 years and tens of millions of dollars on downtown and big projects like the Convention Center and now a soccer stadium and it has gotten us debt and gridlock. Now we are facing cuts to schools and city services. It’s time to tell big business and the Chamber of Commerce that the store is closed until our city can get its finances right.
  • We have a revenue problem because some large companies and developers in Nashville are not paying their fair share. Reports in the local papers show that in the recent property assessment, it was large multi-million dollar properties like Opry Mills Mall and others who got about 80% of the tax breaks in the reappraisal. These companies and developers are hiring high-priced lawyers and accountants to find tax loopholes for them while the rest of us see our own property taxes and rents going up. The city needs to aggressively go after these property owners and get back as much of that revenue as possible – especially the companies that already got a tax break by being in a “development district” and are essentially double-dipping so they don’t have to pay taxes like the rest of us do.

BACKGROUND

Here’s a look at the impact on the mayor’s budget proposal and how we got here:

The Administration’s proposal underfunds our public schools and leaves our children behind.

  • The proposed budget allocation for Metro Schools required the district to cut $17 million from their current budget. All together, MNPS is about $44 million short of what the district needs.
  • The proposal will deny any pay increase for over 9,000 teachers and school support staff including secretaries, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, maintenance staff, and others who are on the front lines. They make the schools run every day so the children can learn.
  • In order to survive on the $5 million allocation, the district must cut new programs for children.

The proposal would deny cost-of-living adjustments (“COLA”) by changing the Metro Government pay plan which was passed by the Council last year. It provides no wage increases for about 2,000 employees, or approximately 20% of the city workforce.

  • The new Metro pay plan was the result of a multi-year effort between Metro and stakeholders including the unions, the Civil Service Commission, and other policy makers. It was designed to fix structural problems with the pay charts, to modernize job classifications, and to make Metro more competitive as an employer.
  • The pay plan was passed by the Civil Service Commission and then approved by resolution of the Metro Council last year. It is already law. Just recently, the Civil Service Commission voted to keep this year’s pay plan intact.
  • During the Great Recession and the flood, Metro employees sacrificed raises of between 3-14% so that Nashville could recover economically. They will not see that money again and this pay plan was intended to prevent them from falling even further behind. Now, we are in a period of growth and prosperity and they are being asked again to make a sacrifice for something that isn’t their fault. That is unfair and does not represent Nashville’s values.

The mayor’s budget proposal does not reflect the best of Nashville’s values. It is regressive and it threatens prosperity for all while still leaving intact a culture of corporate welfare.

  • The budget forces cuts to employee pay which are regressive. This also means they have less money in their pockets and are not generating economic activity.
  • In MNPS, over 4,000 support employees in the schools will not get raises this year. Many if not most of them have to take a second job in order to make ends meet.
  • Many of the Metro Government employees who won’t get a COLA are preparing to retire, which would hurt the retirement benefits that they’ve earned. They’ve already lost value because of the pay freezes from 2009-2013.

It is wrong for city employees and our schools to be asked to pay the price for bad tax increment financing (TIF) corporate welfare schemes that have unnecessarily given up revenue.

  • TIF and PILOT deals give tax breaks to large companies who rarely deliver on their promises or pay for themselves. If companies are required to create a certain number of jobs to be eligible, what are the consequences if they don’t?
  • TIF’s are supposed to be for “blighted” neighborhoods and “development districts”, but media reports continue to show large multimillion dollar companies and affluent areas like the Gulch being a large beneficiary of these types of deals.
  • During the recent property tax appraisal, the largest amount of dollars returned on appeal was to large developers and corporations, not homeowners. Once again, a well-intended system has been gamed by corporate greed.

RECENT NEWS CLIPS

As the budget debate has ramped up this summer, SEIU members have been in the trenches. We’ve been calling, emailing, and meeting with our elected representatives and have turned out in several large actions along with our community allies and other labor unions. Take a look at some of the recent stories in the headlines —

WE CAN’T WIN IF WE DON’T FIGHT!!  WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER!

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MNPS Support Staff Have A New Union Agreement!

MNPS_PayStudy-Petition_1213In January, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and his leadership team finished their review of the new Memorandum Of Understanding (“M.O.U.”) presented by SEIU Local 205 and have agreed to its terms.

The new M.O.U. between MNPS and SEIU includes language covering workers’ right to representation, the right to meet-and-confer over wages, benefits, working conditions, and other issues that matter to all support staff. Other articles of the M.O.U. clarify how the union and the school district interact with each other.

The agreement is the end result of the union’s “Fresh Start” campaign—a sustained effort by rank-and-file members to affect local politics and community initiatives which built an environment of trust and cooperation between both organizations. SEIU members worked on political campaigns, attended community events, participated in the search for a new Director of Schools, and hosted positive meetings that brought support staff and administrators together to find common ground and to unite around key principles that emphasized listening, respect, and the best interests of our public schools.

“This new agreement shows what happens when there is mutual respect between SEIU and MNPS,” said Brad Rayson, president of Local 205. “Dr. Joseph’s administration has shown both the support staff and our Union that respect. It benefits everyone if SEIU and MNPS are working together to improve our public schools and we are glad to be partners in helping the district strive for excellence.”

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Union Steward Wins $7,500 Scholarship!

Local 205 president Brad Rayson and scholarship winner Recco Seay.

Local 205 president Brad Rayson and scholarship winner Recco Seay.

Long-time SEIU member, steward, and union officer Recco Seay Sr. was the recipient of this year’s Cecil D. Branstetter Memorial Scholarship, awarded by Nashville law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings.

The scholarship is for $7,500 and Recco plans to use it to complete his doctorate. Recco’s dream is to graduate at the same time as his son, who is also attending college.

 

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Major Raises & Other Improvements @ MNPS Thanks to Members Taking Action!

SEIU members like Lolita Kinnard (right) take the concerns of secretary/bookkeepers to the Metro School Board.

SEIU members like Lolita Kinnard (right) take the concerns of secretary/bookkeepers to the Metro School Board.

SEIU members working in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) banded together on the “Fresh Start” campaign to push for a new relationship between workers and administrators. In the first year of that effort, the hard work has paid off.

Thanks to a long-term strategy, high participation by our members, and a record number of new members joining the union, the results for support staff have been incredible. Here’s the highlights of what happens when workers stick together through their union:

Big Raises for All Support Staff!  Thanks to the relationships our leaders have built over the years with school board and council members, the city passed the largest raises support staff have received in a decade. A 3% across-the-board raise went into effect, as did the step raises (approx. 2% for those eligible) that were frozen for years.

Increases for Secretary/Bookkeepers!  When the school district announced it was going to change the duties for secretary/bookkeepers, test them, and have them re-apply for their jobs, SEIU members took a stand. They spoke out at the School Board about problems with the testing procedures and other landmines that could sabotage their careers. The administration promised to address the problems that union members brought to them and by the end of the review, none of our members lost their jobs, the position was reclassified, and secretary/bookkeepers received a raise of between 10-12%!

More Hours for Food Service Staff!  Thanks in part to a steady drumbeat by SEIU members over the last several years, Metro Nashville Public Schools has finally offered full-time cafeteria employees seven hours of work per day instead of six. This allows proper prep time for nutritious meals that students deserve and the opportunity for workers to take home more money.

Tuition Assistance!  One of the other issues brought up in SEIU’s Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Joseph was a request for paraprofessionals to receive some kind of tuition assistance to help further their education and work skills to help Metro Schools. This was put into the budget and approved.

Union leaders at MNPS are looking forward to another year of growth and progress for support staff in 2017-2018.

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Edna Jones Wins Re-Election to MEBB!

SEIU_for_EdnaJones_promo201We 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.

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Local 205 Endorses Edna Jones for Metro Benefit Board Election on 5/25!

SEIU_for_EdnaJones_promo201SEIU Local 205 is proud to endorse Edna Jones for re-election to the Metro Employee Benefit Board!

Edna, a Metro employee for over 32 years, has served as a General Government representative on the Metro Employee Benefit Board since 2005 and as chairperson of the Board since 2009. She remains committed to promoting the best interests of all Metro employees and will continue to work to insure the best benefits and pension plans are provided. Edna believes experience matters and uses her experience to understand and connect with all Metro Government employees.  She will make no idle promises which cannot be kept but will always be available to answer questions from all employees and research to find the correct answer if it is not readily available.

The Benefit Board election will be conducted by machine vote on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Hours vary by location so see the chart below. Employees will only need a photo ID in order to vote – a paycheck stub is no longer required. This election is only open to current, non-retired Metro Government employees (excluding Police and Fire employees) who are enrolled in at least one Metro Benefit plan (note: Hospital Authority employees are eligible to vote if they were hired before November 2010). 

 Location Time
Ben West Building: Lobby
100 James Robertson Parkway
8:00-4:30
Lentz Public Health Center: Centennial Room C
2500 Charlotte Ave.
8:00-4:30
Lindsley Hall: Entrance Lobby
730 2nd Ave. South
8:00-4:30
Metro Southeast: Break Room
1417 Murfreesboro Pike (Genesco Park)
8:00-4:30
Public Works: Roll Call Room (Operations Bldg)
740 South 5th Street
7:00-4:00
Water Services: 2nd floor Training Rm (Admin. Bldg)
1600 2nd Ave. North
7:00-4:00

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The MNPS Budget Includes Raises and Pay Study Recommended by SEIU Thanks to Members Taking Action!

Dozens of SEIU members working in Metro schools ask the district to do a pay study for school support staff. The union presented over 1,200 signatures from MNPS workers.

The union presented over 1,200 signatures from MNPS workers asking for a pay study for support staff.

The 2017-2018 operating budget for Metro Schools includes the major priorities which SEIU members have communicated to the school board and Dr. Joseph since the beginning of the school year.

Thanks to the efforts of SEIU members, this year’s proposed schools budget includes:
  • 3% across the board raise
  • Step increases for eligible staff
  • Maintain benefits
  • A compensation study for support staff

Getting the pay study included in the budget happened after over 1,200 support employees all across the county signed petitions and then turned out in droves to present the petitions to the school board.

Cost-of-living and step raises were just a few of the major issues that union members raised with Dr. Joseph, his administration, and the school board at a town hall meeting at the SEIU hall. That meeting also brought forward issues like tuition assistance, hiring more staff, and coming up with more ways for support employees to build a career in MNPS. Those issues have also been included in the budget proposal.

“Because our members have been so pro-active since the search for a new director of schools, the district is starting to get the message that support staff are critical to improving public education in Nashville,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. “This school year, we’ve had a record number of paraprofessionals, educational assistants, secretaries, bookkeepers, ISS monitors, campus supervisors, maintenance and cafeteria staff joining (or re-joining) the union and getting engaged in their workplace and it is making a difference.”

The MNPS budget will be presented to the Metro Council followed by a series of committee meetings and hearings in May and June, followed by a vote by the Council to accept a final budget to be signed by Mayor Barry.

For up-to-date information on the budget and all other issues that are important to MNPS employees, follow SEIU Local 205’s Facebook page or contact SEIU Local 205.

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