Metro Public Health Department

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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Pew/Arnold Study on Metro Benefits Causes Confusion and Controversy

(Nashville)  Representatives from Pew Charitable Trusts caused confusion and controversy at a meeting of the Study & Formulating Committee when they revealed data about the Metro employee pension fund that conflicted with data presented by the city’s actuaries.

On multiple occasions, members of the Study & Formulating Committee attempted to get a straight answer from Pew representatives on the amount that Metro’s pension plan is funded at – a number which is crucial in determining if any reforms to the retirement system are even necessary. In a memo to the Committee on July 22, Pew/Arnold stated that Metro was funded at 77%, a number that was debunked by representatives from Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister, the independent actuary that serves Metro Government. According to BPS&M, Nashville’s open pension plan was funded at a healthy 85% (13% higher than the average state-level pension plan) in 2013. “I want to make sure we aren’t sounding alarms that don’t need to be sounded,” said Glenn Farner, one of the members of the Study & Formulating Committee, to the crowd in attendance.

“It is very disappointing to see an organization like Pew risk its reputation with this kind of fuzzy math in order to push an ideological agenda that puts the retirements of thousands of Middle Tennessee working families at risk,” said Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205. SEIU represents public employees in Metro government departments as well as Metro schools support staff, nearly all of whom are covered under Metro’s benefits plan.

Despite its credible name, Pew is partnering with the John & Laura Arnold Foundation to push a particularly dangerous plan to cripple public pensions all across the country. The Wall Street Journal identified Texas billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold as one of the major forces behind efforts to cut worker pensions at the city and state level. Arnold, who was the subject of a Department of Justice investigation related to his work at Enron (including accusations of insider training and his role in wiping out the retirements of thousands of Enron employees) has funneled massive amounts of money to pension-gutting politicians and their super PACs. His foundation has also directed $4.85 billion to Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Public Sector Retirement Systems” project, which has produced anti-pension research used by state lawmakers to justify cutting into public workers’ retirement benefits, often replacing them with more expensive, less reliable and widely-discredited 401(k) plans or their newer cousin, “hybrid pension plans,” which bring with them hefty bank fees and unnecessary risk for seniors.

The Pew/Arnold work has been called “deceptive” by a host of state legislators in Kentucky after the organizations convinced the state of Kentucky to adopt a new “cash balance plan” which the legislators said “will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, will not reduce our state’s unfunded liability, and will diminish retirement security.” Pew also recently dropped into Jacksonville, Florida to provide policy recommendations addressing the city’s retirement challenges. There, Pew provided a flawed actuarial analysis that wildly overstated the Jacksonville police and fire pension fund’s problems. The city ultimately rejected Pew’s advice.

“It seems like everywhere Pew/Arnold goes, their recommendations are the same – to weaken the retirement security of public employees,” Collier said. According to investment research firm Morningstar, Metro Nashville was the seventh-highest ranked public pension fund in the U.S., with an ROI of 18.3% in 2013. “It ain’t broke, so there is no need for Pew/Arnold to try and fix it,” said Collier.

Another controversy plaguing the Study & Formulating Committee is its agenda. The current committee was formed by Mayor Karl Dean at the request of Metro Council members who asked the mayor to appoint a committee “specifically to consider the provision of domestic partner benefits,” according to a letter signed by 26 city council members on Oct. 2, 2013. “It was never the intent of the Council for this committee to be debating and discussing other employee benefits,” said Collier. “The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an exhaustive study like this only two years ago and the changes that needed to be made were made. It is time for this current committee to be dissolved since their work on domestic partner benefits is concluded.”


The Service Employees International Union is one of the fastest-growing labor unions in the U.S. with over 2.1 million members in North America. In Tennessee, SEIU Local 205 is chartered to represent thousands of public and private sector workers.

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Standing Up for Dignity and Respect @ Metro Health Department!

In addition to the step raises that union members at the Metro Health Department won for their co-workers, SEIU members are reviving a new spirit of activism by standing up for themselves against bad managers.

  • One program manager who had been harassing his staff for over a year finally decided to take early retirement once workers began signing up for the union, documenting his behavior, and speaking out against him.
  • When a new supervisor started harassing her staff over scheduling vacation time and calling in sick, the Union set up a meeting with the bureau director and got the wheels turning to develop a better procedure for requesting time off.
  • An employee broke down into tears at work after receiving some horrible news about her family. But rather than get sympathy from her supervisor, the worker was escorted out of the building by security and was accused of threatening a co-worker – which was patently untrue! It was a serious situation that could have resulted in the employee’s termination, but since she had Union representation, the worker was able to explain the situation and tell her side of the story. Ultimately, she transferred to another facility where she could work in a less stressful environment.

These are just a few of the recent stories that have unfolded as Metro Public Health Department employees have decided to stand up for dignity and respect on the job by joining with Local 205. Stay tuned for more…


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Health Dept Workers Stand Up for Their Step Raises!

SEIU members working in the Health Dept. speak with Council Lady Edith Langster about their concerns.

SEIU members working in the Health Dept. speak with Council Lady Edith Langster about their concerns.

Thanks to consistent and strategic activism by members of SEIU Local 205, the Metro Nashville Board of Health voted to implement a new Pay Plan for FY-2014 that would give eligible employees in the Health Department a salary adjustment which is similar to the step increases that other Metro employees received this year.

This comes in the wake of a grassroots effort by SEIU members in the Health Department to ensure that MPHD staff were treated equitably once the Metro Council approved step raises for General Government employees.

Union members lobbied Metro Council members and the Mayor’s office, putting pressure on the Board of Health and the MPHD administration to implement a plan that calls for a one-time step increase for FY 2014 for all eligible employees of the Health Department.

“If it wasn’t for the Union, we would not be getting these raises,” said Christine Fouch, a public health nurse who attended the June BOH meeting and witnessed the turn of events. “Our presence and the Union’s persistence has convinced the Board to do the right thing for employees”.

The increase takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014 and is not tied to performance evaluations. All employees who are eligible for steps and are not “topped out” will receive them.

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