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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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SEIU Announces Recommendations for Nashville Mayor’s Election!

PoliticalAction_bannerThe Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205 announces their recommended candidates for Nashville’s Mayoral special election, which is to be held on May 24th, 2018.

The candidates were chosen by a committee of union members who work for Metro Government or for Metro Nashville Public Schools – all of whom are residents of Davidson County.

Because there are multiple candidates who have been strong supporters of Metro employees and of working families, SEIU Local 205 recommends Mayor David Briley, Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore, and State Representative Harold Love.

Mayor David Briley has been a strong supporter of Metro employees throughout his tenure on the Metro Council and as Vice Mayor, and he has always been an advocate for making sure Nashville’s prosperity is shared by everyone.

Erica Gilmore was one of the first Metro Council members to speak up to defend Nashville General Hospital and she has been an advocate for holding businesses accountable for public tax incentives they have received.

State Representative Harold Love has fought hard to protect Nashville from overreach by the state legislature and he has been a strong supporter of a living wage in the “Fight for $15” campaign.

All three have been strong defenders of Nashville General Hospital and of the Bordeaux long term care facility.

Election Day for the Mayor’s race will be on Thursday, May 24th. Complete information on voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 615-862-8800.

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Crisis Averted (For Now) at Nashville General Hospital Thanks to Activism & Solidarity!

Union leaders confront Mayor Megan Barry after the surprise announcement from Meharry & HCA that could lead to cuts in jobs and patient services at General Hospital.

Union leaders confront Mayor Megan Barry after the surprise announcement from Meharry & HCA that could lead to cuts in jobs and patient services at General Hospital.

After SEIU members and community allies waged a grassroots campaign, Mayor Megan Barry finally agreed to a “reset” on her original plan to end inpatient services at Nashville General Hospital.

Barry’s pivot came after a surprise announcement on November 9 to restructure the hospital was revealed to the public during a press conference announcing a new partnership between Meharry and HCA. The Mayor’s proposal was short on specifics and contained inaccurate statistics about hospital beds, usage, and other metrics which caused a panic among hospital staff, patients, clergy and vendors.

Elected officials, hospital administrators, and healthcare advocates were completely caught off-guard by Barry’s announcement and had many of the mayor’s own supporters scratching their heads in confusion. In a discussion held at the Metro Council, the mayor’s chief financial officer and legal counsel both admitted they knew nothing about the proposal until shortly before it was made public.

SEIU members didn’t take the news lying down. Almost immediately, the union sprung into action as members spoke up at the Hospital Authority board meeting, turned out in droves to an emergency Metro Council meeting, wrote letters, called their council members, and engaged their churches, neighbors, and patients.

“If we as a union hadn’t pulled together and if we hadn’t worked together with our partners in the community, I honestly think that most of us would be out of jobs,” said Michael Foster, a service tech at General and SEIU member.

The union’s action, with help from our allies across the community, helped get the word out that the mayor’s proposal could threaten tens of millions in funding to the state’s safety net hospitals. It was also revealed that the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office would have to add another $3 million in its budget to pay for the changes the mayor was seeking since DCSO provides transportation and security for inmates who are served at General.

“We couldn’t have stopped this train as individuals. We needed to lock arms, stand together, work with our partners, and fight back,” said Myra Franklin, a registered nurse in General’s NICU.

The overall plan to create some kind of change at General Hospital is still in effect, though the mayor has conceded that it is ultimately the role of the Metro Council to implement any major changes at General after two councilmembers from opposite sides of the political spectrum announced a new ordinance that would prevent the mayor from acting unilaterally.

A proposed timeline by the mayor would now give her until December, 2018 to hear recommendations on “how we can come together as a community around a working model for the future”. The legislation in front of the Metro Council would extend the deadline to June, 2019 before any major decisions are made. There will be a new format in place engaging stakeholders to determine the future recommendations for General Hospital.

“This fight isn’t over yet and we’re going to need to keep doing this until the city gets the message once and for all: General Hospital needs to stay a safety net hospital and we’re going to do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” said Osa Richards, a registered nurse.

For all the latest news and updates on the struggle at Nashville General Hospital, join the “Save NGH” Facebook group or bookmark the “Save Nashville General” campaign website and sign their petition.

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Local 205 Endorses Daron Hall for Davidson County Sheriff

DCSO_SheriffHall-MembersService Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing employees of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), announced its endorsement of Daron Hall in his bid for re-election as county sheriff.

Hall has served four consecutive terms and three different mayoral administrations since he was first elected in 2002. During that time, corrections officers and other DCSO employees have seen steady increases in pay, better training, and improvements in their retirement benefits thanks in large part to the collaborative relationship SEIU has had with Sheriff Hall.

“We were glad to work with Daron on getting compression pay and salary increases for corrections officers over the last couple of years,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. “Corrections work is hard and it is always changing – we need someone in that office who will listen to the employees when they see that there are problems and work tirelessly to try and fix them,” Rayson said. “We applaud Sheriff Hall’s effort to decriminalize those with mental or substance issues who enter our jails and his efforts to provide treatment to this population.”

“Sheriff Hall has demonstrated a commitment to helping improve pay and benefits for his staff and a proven track record of being an effective administrator,” said Linda Knox, an SEIU member who served on the union’s political committee. “Nashville is growing by leaps and bounds and our city needs someone who is a proven leader who can deal with the challenges that are set in front of them.”

Election Day is on May 1, 2018 and early voting begins on April. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 615-862-8800.

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SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public sector employees across the state of Tennessee, including employees of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

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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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Metro Government Employees Win Raises, New Pay Plan, & New Benefits!

IMG_2728.JPGSEIU members from dozens of city departments filled the seats during the Metro Council’s Public Hearing on the city budget to make the case that public services and the people who provide them are vital to Nashville’s future.

“Having growth means nothing if regular folks can’t afford to raise a family and take part in the American Dream,” said union steward Tyrone Jolley. “Those are the priorities we need to keep focused on.”

Despite some controversy over the budget request for Nashville General Hospital, the Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the operating budget, pay plan, and other ordinances related to employees that Local 205 supported.

 

2017-2018 Budget Highlights:
METRO GOVERMENT Employees
  • 2% cost of living raise
  • Maintain step raises (2% for those eligible)
  • Shift differential increase (70¢/hr for evening shift, 80¢/hr for night shift)
  • Fund open-range raises
  • Three -year pay plan (2%, 3%, 3%).
  • Longevity pay distributed earlier (Nov. 15)
  • No cuts to department budgets, several new programs implemented

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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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Political Update: A Wave of Anti-Union Bills Defeated @ State Capitol!

Members@LXR-lobbying

SEIU member leaders lobby to protect health care for all at the state legislature.

The anti-union bills filed at the Tennessee General Assembly this session either failed or were withdrawn from the legislative agenda, including:

HB 115 (Alexander): Certain prohibitions of payroll deductions for public employees, including a prohibition on a state agency or local government from deducting and remitting from an employee’s payroll any dues of an employee association.

Result: BILL WITHDRAWN BY SPONSOR

HB 356 (Dunn)/SB 404 (Gresham): Payroll deduction of dues to professional employees’ organizations. This bill makes dues deduction an option for school systems in the Tennessee. This bill states that if a school system makes payroll deduction to one professional employee association it must make availability to all professional employees associations with the employee’s authorization must be in writing and the employee can stop the dues deduction at any time. This bill allows the schools to charge up to 10% of the dues collected to process the dues deduction.

Result: BILL DEFEATED IN SENATE FINANCE CMTE.

 

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