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Election 2018: SEIU Supports Joda Thongnopnua in State House District 30!

Political_JodaThongnopnuaIn House District 30, SEIU Local 205 has endorsed Joda Thongnopnua.

Joda grew up in East Ridge and graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He runs a nonprofit that advocates to end predatory lending in Tennessee, greater funding for education, and investments to revitalize neighborhoods.

Steve West, equipment operator and SEIU member from Chattanooga said, “Joda has made expanding access to healthcare and raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of his campaign and he has demonstrated that he will put the interests of Tennessee’s working families first when he is elected.”

The general election is on Tuesday, November 6 and the last day to register to vote in this cycle is October 9. For information on voter registration and polling locations, contact your local county election commission or visit the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

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Election 2018: SEIU Endorses Allan Creasy in State House District 97!

Political_AllenCreasyIn State House District 97, SEIU Local 205 has endorsed Allan Creasy.

Allan was born and raised in Shelby County and graduated from the University of Memphis. He has worked in the hospitality industry for years where he comes in contact with people from all walks of life. After volunteering for community groups and knocking on doors for local candidates, Allan decided to become a candidate himself so he can fight for solutions to the problems people face in his community.

Carolyn Williams, a retired SEIU member from Memphis said of Creasy, “Allan is a hardworking guy who grew up in Shelby County and understands his community. He listens to people, so he understands what problems we’re facing and he’ll work to find solutions in the legislature.”

The general election is on Tuesday, November 6 and the last day to register to vote in this cycle is October 9. For information on voter registration and polling locations, contact your local county election commission or visit the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

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Election 2018: SEIU Supports Gabby Salinas in State Senate District 31!

Political_GabbySalinasIn State Senate District 31, SEIU Local 205 has endorsed Gabby Salinas.

Gabby is a former researcher at St. Jude’s hospital, where she was also a cancer patient when she was 7 years old. In fact, Gabby has survived cancer three times, and a tragic car accident that took the life of her father and sister, and left her mother paralyzed. Gabby and her family were taken to Haywood Park Community Hospital in Brownsville following the crash. That hospital closed in 2014, one of 10 hospitals in Tennessee that have closed in the past decade. Gabby says that is a big part of what pushed her to run for office, knowing that entire communities would be left without a lifeline.

“Gabby is a truly inspirational person. She has overcome so much in her life and now she is taking on the challenge of public service. We have no doubt Gabby will make it a priority to improve our healthcare, strengthen our schools, and invest in our communities when she is elected,” said SEIU State Council member and school nutrition supervisor Donna Watson.

The general election is on Tuesday, November 6 and the last day to register to vote in this cycle is October 9. For information on voter registration and polling locations, contact your local county election commission or visit the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

 

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Election 2018: SEIU Endorses Gloria Johnson in State House District 13!

Political_GloriaJohnsonIn State House District 13, SEIU Local 205 has endorsed Gloria Johnson.

Gloria is a retired teacher running for the seat she previously won in 2012. Gloria’s family has deep roots in East Tennessee, and she is a graduate of Knox County schools and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In the past few years, Gloria has been a tireless advocate for improving our health care system to ensure that every family can see a doctor when they need one.

“As a teacher, healthcare advocate, and legislator, Gloria has shown a deep commitment to public service in East Tennessee. She has been tireless in working to improve the lives of those around her, and we need her voice back in the legislature,” said Tracy Fair, a Health Unit Coordinator and SEIU member from Knoxville.

The general election is on Tuesday, November 6 and the last day to register to vote in this cycle is October 9. For information on voter registration and polling locations, contact your local county election commission or visit the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

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Election 2018: SEIU Supports Bob Freeman for State House District 56!

Political_BobFreemanIn House District 56, SEIU Local 205 has endorsed Bob Freeman.

Bob is a Nashville businessman running for the open seat left by former Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell. Bob is focusing his campaign on expanding access to healthcare, investing in infrastructure and combating the opioid crisis. Bob and his wife Rachel have been active members of their community and as a State Representative, we know Bob will make sure working families have a voice in the legislature.

“Bob Freeman is a life-long Tennessean who has volunteered for good causes in his community. Whether he was serving on the Davidson County Homelessness Commission or the Tennessee Environmental Council, Bob has worked help others and make Tennessee a better place to live,” said Russ Anthony, a social worker and President of SEIU Local 205’s State Council.

The general election is on Tuesday, November 6 and the last day to register to vote in this cycle is October 9. For information on voter registration and polling locations, contact your local county election commission or visit the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

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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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2018 State Legislature Roundup

tennessee-state-capitol_1552938 copyThis was a quieter session of the legislature than normal, primarily because of legislators who were gearing up to run for higher statewide office. Several anti-union bills which were drafted early in the session, died a quiet death in subcommittees and were not brought to votes, though most expect to see these bills make a reappearance next year once the dust has settled on the November elections.

The Republican supermajority at the state legislature refused attempts to expand Medicaid and extend healthcare coverage to thousands of Tennesseans, and instead moved forward with a bill to implement work requirements for Medicaid, making it even harder for Tennessee families to stay covered.

The legislature also passed a bill exempting some “app-based” companies from legal liability. This bill continues a trend in the ‘gig economy’ of allowing companies to classify people as “independent contractors” instead of as “employees”, eroding their rights to benefits and work safety protections.

 

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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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