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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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SEIU Members and MNPS Officials Meet for a “Fresh Start”!

SEIU's Lolita Kinnard and director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph at the "Fresh Start" meeting.

SEIU’s Lolita Kinnard and director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph at the “Fresh Start” meeting.

Nearly 100 school support staff came to the SEIU Local 205 union hall on a Saturday morning to meet director of Metro schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and hear his responses from the union’s Workers Committee.

The Workers Committee, made up of union members who work in the school district, welcomed Dr. Joseph and asked him a variety of questions on everything from the pay study that SEIU recently requested to raises, training, snow days, onboarding, and many other issues that have been left unaddressed by the previous MNPS administration – a story that was recently covered by the Nashville Scene.

Elected school board members and other MNPS administrators were there as well and they all saw first-hand the power that workers have when they organize and work together to solve problems and improve our schools. “Hold us accountable,” Dr. Joseph said during a discussion about how to best improve Metro schools. School board chairwoman Anna Shepherd mentioned the positive impact that SEIU leaders had on last year’s search for a new Director of Schools and she encouraged support staff to stay engaged and help lift up Metro schools.

“After 31 years of service with MNPS, I feel that we have finally been heard by someone who cares about support staff,” said Lolita Kinnard, a secretary/bookkeeper who works at Percy Priest Elementary and served on the Workers Committee. “I think that we will begin to see some changes, but we have to continue to be active and keep building our union.”

Melvin Hart Jr., a paraprofessional at Hillsboro High, said “this was a good day and a good show of strength and solidarity by my union brothers and sisters. I’m looking forward to a good year with some positive changes, but we have to keep the momentum going and stay engaged.”

“This was a positive day with quality people who want to make a positive impact on our students and our communities,” said Derek Waller, a furniture shop manager and member of the union’s Workers Committee.

Also in attendance at the meeting to meet SEIU members were MNPS administrators Deborah Story, Chris Henson, and other members of the MNPS school board. All agreed that engagement and cooperation are crucial in making forward progress at the schools and so is dignity and respect for all staff. Plans are already underway for the Workers Committee to begin planning for a follow-up meeting.

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School Support Staff Request Study to Fix Pay Inequality in Nashville!

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.

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.

Food service workers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and dozens of Metro Nashville Public Schools support employees crowded into the December school board meeting to urge the board to commission a pay study for support employees.

SEIU Local 205 gathered over 1,200 petition signatures from support staff working in schools all over Davidson County. The petition requests that a pay study be conducted to compare MNPS support staff’s wages and benefits to their counterparts in peer cities and updating the pay scale where appropriate. There has not been a pay study conducted for support employees in Metro Schools since 1996.

“We appreciate Dr. Joseph’s willingness to review school operations from top to bottom and make changes that are needed,” said Lilldeus Russell, a paraprofessional who works with special needs students. “One of the changes we think is necessary is to take a hard look at employee pay and whether it is keeping pace with the cost of living in Nashville.”

James Brown, an IT technician who was part of the petition drive, has noticed a slow trickle of quality employees out of MNPS. “We have seen good people with years of experience leave the district because they can’t make ends meet,” Brown said. “That’s a major loss – not just to the school district but to the kids who rely on us every day.”

“Since the last pay study, so much has changed,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205.”The cost of living has gone up, job expectations have grown, and student needs have increased.”

Rayson urged the school board to immediately commission a pay study to compare support staff wages to their counterparts in similar-sized cities like Louisville and Charlotte. “We need an apples-to-apples view of where MNPS stacks up and take action to make improvements as quickly as possible,” Rayson said. “Our members love their work and find it very rewarding, but some struggle financially. Many have second jobs and others have to consider leaving a job they love for one that simply pays the bills.”

SEIU has had preliminary discussions about low pay for support staff with Dr. Joseph and plans to address the topic with him in more detail in January.

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A Clean Sweep for SEIU’s Candidates in Local Nashville Elections!

Local 205 activists with school board candidates Frogge, Pinkston, & Speering.

Local 205 activists with school board candidates Frogge, Pinkston, & Speering.

We are thrilled to report that after the votes were counted, ALL of the candidates endorsed by Local 205 in Nashville’s local races won their elections!

In the Metro school board races, our endorsed candidates Jill Speering, Christiane Buggs, and Amy Frogge won by huge margins while Will Pinkston held on to his seat by a slim margin of only 36 votes!

The school board races were unusual in that national political organizations had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in “dark money” to try and change the makeup of the board to become more pro-charter – an effort that failed miserably. “These special-interest groups who tried to come in and hijack our school board learned an expensive lesson thanks in no small part to the efforts of union members who live and vote in the school district,” said Freda Player, Local 205’s political director. “The most important issues to our members who work in Metro schools are pay, morale, and their rights on the job and the candidates we supported have repeatedly shown that all of these are crucial to getting Metro schools back on track.”

Even before the election campaigns ramped up, SEIU members in MNPS had been very pro-active in school affairs. They attended all of the interviews during the search for a new director of schools, they supported the hiring of Dr. Shawn Joseph, and they persuaded the school board to pass a policy laying out guidelines for how the new director should interact with employees and their organizations like SEIU. The union also has a representative on Dr. Joseph’s transition team and have been bringing employee issues to his attention. “Our school leaders have been very strategic over the last year and that is starting to pay off,” Player said. “We are all looking forward to deepening our relationship with Dr. Joseph and the new school board so that we can ensure that MNPS support staff are paid what they’re worth, that they get dignity and respect on the job, and that they have the tools at their disposal to make Metro schools as great as we all know they can be.”

Meanwhile, in the special election in Metro Council district 1, the union’s endorsed candidate, Nick Leonardo, won convincingly.

We congratulate all of our endorsed candidates, our members and their families who voted for them,  and we especially thank our Member Political Organizers who did the hard work of campaigning to elect this slate of pro-labor candidates to office.

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