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Big Wins for SEIU-Backed Candidates in Chattanooga Elections!

Local 205 members played a critical role in the various candidates' "ground game" by knocking doors and making calls.

Local 205 members played a critical role in the various candidates’ “ground game” by knocking doors and making calls.

In the 2017 Chattanooga City Council election, all of the Union’s endorsed candidates won their races in the general election. However, two candidates, Chris Anderson and Yusuf Hakeem, did not reach the 50% + 1 threshold needed to win the overall district election. Despite those two losses, their opponents were also union advocates. This means that there is still a pro-union majority on the Chattanooga city council, which complements mayor Andy Berke’s overwhelming re-election victory.

SEIU members were able to maintain this union majority by providing 237 volunteer hours, knocking on 1,158 doors, and making over 500 phone calls!

Congratulations to the candidates and to our members who made the difference and helped them win on Election Day!


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SEIU Endorses Andy Berke for Mayor of Chattanooga!

Members of Local 205 and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke.

Members of Local 205 and Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing employees in Chattanooga city departments, announced its endorsement of Andy Berke for mayor.

Berke has served four years as Chattanooga’s mayor as the city saw major growth and progress on multiple fronts, including for city employees. Berke was the first mayor to recognize a union for general government employees by signing a memorandum of understanding with SEIU, he’s worked with union members to develop an employee policy manual that is consistent across all city departments, and he has continued to meet in good faith with local labor organizations to ensure equal and fair treatment for all city employees.

“Andy Berke is one of the most pro-worker mayors I’ve seen in a long time and we’re proud to continue supporting him,” said union member Blondel Garner, a Head Start teaching assistant who has worked for the city for over 20 years. “Andy knows how to treat people and he knows how to make our city successful.”

“I respect Andy Berke because he respects people who work for a living,” said Greg Hinton, a building maintenance mechanic. “We are not going to find another candidate for mayor who is as committed to workers and making Chattanooga great as Andy Berke is… he’s already proven it.”

“We look forward to continuing to deepen our relationship with Andy by creating more efficient and productive ways to address employees concerns and issues,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205.

Election Day is on March 7, 2017 and early voting begins on February 15. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Hamilton County Election Commission at 423-493-5100.


SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public service and healthcare workers across the state of Tennessee, including employees of the City of Chattanooga.

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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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SEIU Announces Endorsements for Metro School Board!

For Immediate Release

Local Union Supports Metro School Board Candidates With “Real World” Experience in Public Education

(Nashville, TN) Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing support employees working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools, announced the names of candidates the organization will be supporting in the School Board elections to be held on August 4, 2016.

In the race for school board District 3, SEIU Local 205 endorsed incumbent Jill Speering, a retired teacher. “Jill knows that without an experienced support staff, teachers aren’t able to teach,” said Recco Seay Sr., an in-school suspension monitor and SEIU member. “Not only does Jill have decades of experience as an educator, she also has compassion for school employees and understands their needs and concerns.”

In District 5, SEIU endorsed Christiane Buggs. Christiane is a newcomer to politics, but served for many years as a Metro school teacher. “Christiane was a teacher and her parents were school support staff,” said SEIU member Lilldeus Russell, a paraprofessional in MNPS. “She has a lot of firsthand knowledge of how schools work on a daily basis and that perspective is needed on the board.”

In District 7, the union is supporting Will Pinkston who is running for re-election. “Will is a strong policy advocate and he’s been militant when it comes to transparency, accountability, and engagement,” said James Brown, a computer network engineer for the district and the union’s chief steward. “The moneyed special interests are putting their bets on his opponent, but voters should bet on Will Pinkston in this election.”

In District 9, SEIU Local 205 endorsed incumbent Amy Frogge, a community activist and parent volunteer. “As a parent with children in Metro Schools, Amy understands the needs and concerns of families who have a stake in our school system,” said SEIU member Deborah Dial, a secretary who works at Hillwood High, which is in District 9. “She has always relied on data and her compassion for others to be a leading voice on the school board and we want to see that continue.”

Election Day for the school board races will be on Thursday, August 4. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 615-862-8800.


SEIU Local 205 represents support employees working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools and has since 2001. Members come from nearly every department in the district and include school secretaries, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, education assistants, campus supervisors, maintenance workers, crossing guards and others who play a role in shaping the lives of children in Davidson County.

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A Fresh Start Between SEIU and MNPS!

Some staff & members of Local 205 celebrate the passage of a new labor policy by the Metro school board.

Some staff & members of Local 205 celebrate the passage of a new labor policy by the Metro school board.

After years of political and legal wrangling with the Metro Nashville public school district, SEIU Local 205 has come to an agreement with the district that brings an era of conflict and controversy to a close.

As reported by The Tennessean, the MNPS school board unanimously passed a policy which says that the district will recognize MNPS workers’ right to join and assist employee organizations like SEIU and for the director of schools to make good faith efforts to meet and confer with the organizations. The new policy also paves the way for developing a consistent forum to address employees’ concerns and recognizing their rights.

“The new Board policy gives us the opportunity to reestablish a positive partnership with MNPS,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. “This is a fresh start between the union and the district and we are looking forward to being part of the discussion on how to make Metro schools the best they can be for students, community and employees”.

The new policy brings to an end a protracted legal battle that began when former director of schools Jesse Register voided the district’s labor policy. The adoption of this new policy ends the appeal process which could have taken the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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Council Approves Emergency Funding for General Hospital

Thanks to efforts by SEIU members and other community groups, the Metro Council unanimously approved an emergency request for funding at General Hospital in Nashville.

Nashville’s safety net hospital continues to struggle as its core mission is to provide care to many patients who are uninsured or underinsured. According to a story by Nashville Public Radio

…[General Hospital has] a shortfall because of some surprises. Those include getting dinged by Joint Commission inspectors on patient safety and infection control — problems that have demanded spending to get fixes in motion.

They also want to continue with technology changes and creation of an outpatient pharmacy. Combined, several hospital maneuvers have reduced the daily cost of treating a patient 11 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to the hospital.

But they’re still struggling to pay bills on time to vendors, lagging behind industry standards.

And at one point this summer, the hospital had about two days’ worth of operating cash on hand, making it tough to even pay its employees.

Union officials and members were active behind the scenes and reached out to share their concerns with elected officials throughout the funding situation. SEIU will continue to work with hospital and city officials to find constructive ways to strengthen funding at General in order to protect employee pay and patient care.

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SEIU Endorses Hillary Clinton for President


SEIU Endorses Hillary Clinton for President

SEIU Local 205 members: Clinton supports our movement to build a better future for working families

(Nashville)—After members conducted a rigorous endorsement process for the past several months, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, calling her a leader who will stand up for the working moms and dads building a movement to secure a better future for their families.

“Hillary Clinton supports working people by supporting raising the minimum wage, expanding and strengthening overtime rules, and protecting our retirements,” said Rosa Lee of Nashville and a Local 205 board member. “She stands with us on the issues that matter to our families the most.”

“The members of 205 are proud to support Hillary Clinton for president,” said local President Doug Collier. “Hillary Clinton will continue to support the bargaining rights of union workers.  She has proven her support of union workers by being a co-sponsor of Employee Free Choice Act.  She will work the raise the income for hardworking Tennesseans and close the gap of income inequality.  We cannot afford four years of policies that will hurt working families while lining the pockets of big corporations.”

SEIU’s national months-long member engagement process included a 1,200-member conference in March, three national tele-town hall meetings in which more than 80,000 members participated, three national member polls from the fall of 2014 through the fall of 2015 and more than 200 local executive board debates and discussions with thousands of local union officers and elected member-leaders.

VIDEO: Watch SEIU members speak about why they support Hillary Clinton

“Hillary Clinton has proven she will fight, deliver and win for working families,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “SEIU members and working families across America are part of a growing movement to build a better future for their families, and Hillary Clinton will support and stand with them. This movement for economic, racial, immigrant and social justice is poised to turn out to vote in November with their families and communities and keep pushing elected officials to deliver once in office.”

SEIU’s 2 million members will join hands with community partners in a broad movement for economic, social, immigrant and racial justice. Along with the 64 million people who work at jobs paying poverty-level wages, they will be a powerful force during the 2016 elections. Hundreds of thousands of face-to-face and door-to-door contacts, millions of phone calls, robust digital engagement and other activities to get out the vote will counteract the efforts of billionaires and corporations to elect leaders who would answer only to the wealthy few.


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.

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The Effort to Gut Metro Employee Benefits Fails!

Close to 200 Metro employees and SEIU members packed the Howard School Building to hear Pew's proposal for benefit changes for city employees.

Close to 200 Metro employees and SEIU members packed the Howard School Building to hear Pew’s proposal for benefit changes for city employees.

After a nearly two-year struggle, we are happy to report that the Metro Employee Benefit Board has rejected any cuts to the pension or retiree health benefits for Metro employees!

At their meeting on Oct. 6, the Benefit Board weighed the proposal from Mayor Dean’s Study and Formulating Committee as well as the input from SEIU and decided that it was unfair for firefighters and police to be allowed to keep their medical coverage upon reaching Medicare eligibility while the rest of the city’s employees would be cut off from health insurance when they retired. The Benefit Board voted against the Study Committee’s recommendation, despite a major P.R. push by the Mayor and his allies to convince the public of a “crisis” in unfunded liability for employee benefits which SEIU debunked.

Unless the new mayor or Metro Council decides to revisit this issue, major changes to employee benefits are now effectively dead. You’ll remember that SEIU was able to get any cuts to the employee pension stopped over the summer by an aggressive campaign against the Pew group and the Dean Administration. That victory was only possible because our members turned out and they were vocal about protecting the benefits they earned.

Meanwhile, the Benefit Board did vote in favor of a new lump-sum payout option that the union supports. There are pros and cons to this new option, but the important thing is that the final decision about whether to use it is up to the employee and it is not mandatory. We urge city employees to get more information about this benefit as details are rolled out – assuming it gets approved by the Metro Council.

Thank you to our members who turned out to meetings and talked to their elected officials about these issues and helped secure a major victory. Please tell your non-union co-workers that the reason their benefits are secure is because your Union fought hard to protect them!

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Election 2015: A New Day for Nashville Thanks In Part to SEIU Members!

PoliticalAction_bannerNow that the dust has settled over the Metro Government elections in Nashville, we are happy to report that candidates endorsed by SEIU Local 205 have been victorious.

First and foremost, Megan Barry, who Local 205 endorsed in the Sept. 10 election for Mayor, won in a landslide over hedge fund millionaire David Fox.

In addition to the Mayor’s race, SEIU’s endorsed candidate David Briley was elected vice-mayor.

In the county-wide “at-large” races, all 7 of the candidates the Local supported made it to the runoff election and in the end, 3 of the 5 candidates we supported for at-large won on Sept. 10.

The charter amendment on local hiring for Metro construction projects, which SEIU strongly supported, passed with overwhelming support from the public by garnering 57% of the vote.

In the individual Metro Council districts, our candidates won across the county. SEIU endorsed in 15 council districts and we won 10 out of the 15 races on Aug. 6 and then in the Sept. 10 runoff, we only lost in two districts.

The candidates who the Local endorsed and won are:

Megan Barry

Vice Mayor
David Briley

Council (At-Large)
John Cooper
Jim Shulman
Erica Gilmore

Council (Districts)

1 – Loniel Greene
7 – Anthony Davis
8 – Nancy VanReece
17 – Colby Sledge
20 – Mary Carolyn Roberts
21 – Ed Kindall
23 – Mina Johnson
24 – Kathleen Murphy
26- Jeremy Elrod
28 – Tanaka Vercher
29 – Karen Johnson
32 – Jacobia Dowell
35 – Dave Rosenberg

Unlike many other organizations that endorse candidates in Nashville’s local elections, SEIU’s endorsement comes with manpower. Our members, many of whom were volunteering on candidates’ campaigns, ended up knocking on 5,318 doors and they made 108,452 phone calls. Mail pieces also went out to our members and the union’s political committee made contributions to the candidates’ campaign committees.

“Our members actively participated in this election first by voting for worker-friendly candidates,” said Freda Player, the political director for Local 205. “Secondly, our members did the hard work of phone banking  and door knocking to help ensure we have a city government that supports workers rights and quality public services.”

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