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Local 205 Endorses Megan Barry in Nashville Mayor Runoff Election!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Public Employees Union Endorses Megan Barry for Mayor

SEIU Supports “Highly Qualified, Big Picture” Candidate to Succeed Dean

(Nashville)  Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing thousands of public employees working in Metro Government, Metro Schools, and various local government agencies, announced its support for Megan Barry as mayor of Nashville.

Barry, a two-term at-large member of the Metro Council and business executive, faces hedge fund millionaire David Fox in a runoff election on September 10. Barry championed several pieces of pro-labor legislation during her years on the council, including a living wage ordinance for city employees and a domestic partner benefit, which is the first significant expansion of employee benefits in years. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, she’s built a career in the field of ethics and corporate accountability, and is active in local non-profit and community organizations.

“In looking at the backgrounds and track records of the two remaining mayoral candidates, the decision to support Megan Barry was an easy one for our members to make,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205. “Megan has demonstrated a greater working knowledge of how Metro works, that she can work with people on all sides of an issue and be a consensus builder, and that she is receptive to the needs of people who work for a living,” Collier stated. “Meanwhile, David Fox’s career has been built off of gambling with other people’s money on Wall Street and killing jobs like the 700 custodians who lost their jobs and benefits with Metro during Fox’s term on the school board.”

“The city needs more funding for our public schools, not more charters who cherry pick students and don’t have to play by the same rules as public schools,” said James Brown, a communications technician who served on the union’s candidate committee. “Nashville needs to keep the experienced, hard-working employees it has, not fire them for mythical cost savings that never materialize. Megan Barry understands that prosperity, not austerity, is what builds economies and improves the quality of life and she has the experience and skills to follow through on that.”

Election Day is on Thursday, September 10, 2015, but early voting begins on Friday, August 21. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 862-8800.

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The Service Employees International Union is the fastest-growing labor union in North America, with a membership of over 2 million members. In Tennessee, SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public service and healthcare workers across the state, including public employees in Metro Government, Metro Schools, MDHA, Metro Action Commission, the Nashville Hospital Authority, and other local government departments and agencies.

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Despite Threats on Several Fronts, SEIU “Survives and Thrives” In Metro Government in 2015!

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

Members working for Metro attend (and speak out at) the public hearing on the Metro budget.

“They’ve been throwing everything and the kitchen sink at us all year and we’ve not only survived, we’ve thrived,” says Antonio McKissack, a water maintenance leader who serves as the chief union steward for Local 205’s Metro chapter.

Antonio, who his friends call “A.T.”, is talking about the victories that SEIU has faced on several fronts in 2015. Thanks to the organization and activism of its members working in Metro Government, the union has protected the pension, stopped radical changes to the pay plan, and helped push forward pay increases for all Metro employees.

Pension & Health Benefits

The threat to employee benefits began over a year ago when the mayor’s Study & Formulating Committee defied their mandate from the Metro Council and began a “full review” of employee pension and health benefits.  For that, the committee lined up the Washington DC-based Pew Trusts, which is funded by former Enron executive John Arnold. Arnold’s project has caused disruption to local and state pension systems across the country, but thanks to big turnout by workers at the Study & Formulating Committee meetings and an aggressive lobbying program, SEIU has stopped any cuts to the pension for current and future employees.

Having lost the fight on the city pension, which is one of the most profitable and well-funded in the country, the committee turned its attention to the employee medical plan. And yet, despite a misleading media campaign about the Metro plan’s “unfunded liability”, SEIU has stopped any major cuts or changes to the health insurance benefits for employees. Meanwhile, changes to future retiree health plans may yet still happen depending on the actions of the Benefit Board and the council over the summer and fall. Also this year, SEIU supported the first expansion of employee benefits in years; the domestic partner benefit, which passed the Metro Council overwhelmingly.

The Pay Study

While the threat to employee benefits played out, another study was going on related to Metro employee pay. A comprehensive study of Metro employee pay and benefits, which was done by consulting firm DeLoitte, was the first of its kind in over a decade and included surveys and other analysis that resulted in several significant findings – some good for employees, some not so good. One positive recommendation from the pay study was to increase the salaries of jobs which were “in crisis” because they were 20%  or more behind their “peers” (the market standard for that particular job). SEIU helped get some of those job classifications onto the consultants’ radar because of our members’ research and recommendation. As a result of SEIU members’ activism, workers in the Health, Water, and 911 departments as well as corrections officers in the DCSO received extra pay increases.

Meanwhile, another recommendation of the DeLoitte pay study would have reclassified many existing Civil Service employees to become “open-range” employees, which means they would no longer be eligible for step raises. SEIU opposed expanding an open-range (also known as “merit pay”) system in Metro for several reasons—a lack of consistent funding, the arbitrary nature of merit pay, and because most research has shown that merit pay does not improve performance in the public sector. SEIU would not budge on our opposition to this proposal and the Dean Administration ultimately abandoned it.

Employee Pay and Raises

When it came to employee pay, this year’s Metro budget included several improvements for city employees, thanks in no small part to the strategic and consistent activity by members of Local 205.

All city employees received a 2.5% cost of living (COLA) raise. Employees who were eligible for increment (“step”) raises received them, which represents an increase of between 1-3%. Employees classified as “open range” received between 0-3% and eligible employees in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office received compression pay.

In the run-up to the vote on the budget, SEIU members met with council members to talk to them about the love they have for public service as well as the struggles they face. They also educated the council about the value and importance of a strong employee benefit system that rewards loyalty and service to the public.

“I am so proud of my brothers and sisters for their hard work and persistence,” says McKissack. “Our stewards and activists rose to the challenge and worked hard to protect their departments and get good raises for all city employees. We still have some things to get fixed for next year, but we are on a roll.”

 

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SEIU Endorses for Metro Council Runoff Elections on Sept. 10!

MetroGovt-sealThe Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205 announces their endorsed candidates for Nashville’s Metro Council runoff election to be held on September 10, 2015.

The candidates were interviewed and chosen by a committee of rank and file members of our union.  The members of this committee work for Metro Government or for Metro schools.

The endorsed candidates are:

Council At-Large
Erin Coleman
John Cooper
Robert Duvall
Erica Gilmore
Jason Holleman
Lonnell Matthews
Jim Shulman

Council District

District 1
Loniel Greene
Nick Leonardo

District 2
Robert Stockard

District 3
No Endorsement

District 5
Sarah Martin

District 8
Nancy Van Reece

District 13
No Endorsement
(no survey submitted)

District 17
Colby Sledge
Paula Foster

District 20
Mary Carolyn Roberts

District 23
Mina Johnson

Early Voting for the runoff election is from August 21-September 5.

For complete election information, including early voting and absentee ballots, visit the Davidson County Election Commission’s website or call them at 615-862-8800.

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Local 205 Announces Endorsements for Nashville Metro Council Races!

MetroGovt-sealThe Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205 announces their endorsed candidates for Nashville’s Metro Council elections to be held on August 10, 2015.

The candidates were interviewed and chosen by a committee of rank and file members of our union.  The members of this committee are Davidson County residents who work for Metro Government or for Metro schools.

If there were more than three candidates in a district race, the committee decided to wait until the runoff to give an endorsement.  The committee also decided to wait until the runoff to endorse for the At-Large races.

The endorsed candidates are:

Mayor             Bill Freeman

Vice-Mayor    David Briley

District 5         Sara Martin

District 7         Anthony Davis

District 16       Tony Tenpenny

District 20      Mary Carolyn Roberts

District 21       Ed Kindall

District 23      Mina Johnson

District 24      Kathleen Murphy

District 26      Jeremy Elrod

District 27      Clement Ledbetter

District 28      Tanaka Vercher

District 29      Karen Johnson

District 32      Jacobia Dowell

District 33      Jimmy Gafford

District 34      Steve Butler

District 35      Dave Rosenberg

Early voting is from July 17- August 1.

Election Day will be on August 6th.

Runoff elections are scheduled for Sept. 10.

For complete election information, including early voting and absentee ballots, visit the Davidson County Election Commission’s website or call them at 615-862-8800.

 

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Nashville Public Employees Respond to Pew Report on Benefits

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.

Workers on Public Employee Pension and Health Systems: “It Ain’t Broke… Don’t Fix It”

Hundreds of Nashville firefighters, nurses, law enforcement officers, librarians, water technicians, school employees, and other public service workers and retirees spoke out against a proposal by Pew Charitable Trusts to cut public employee and retiree benefits at a meeting of the Study and Formulating Committee.

Pew issued an interim report that explored a proposal for Metro Nashville to close its existing defined-benefit pension plan and shift future employees into a state pension plan that is a combination – or “hybrid” – of a traditional pension and a 401(k)-type defined-contribution plan. A hybrid proposal would shift more of the costs onto employees, who make on average about $33,000/ year according to a recent compensation study. “A lot of us have to take second jobs to make ends meet and many of us are single moms,” said Vanessa Sanders, a labor and delivery nurse at General Hospital. “After taxes, transportation, health insurance, and all the other necessities, we just cannot afford to have more money come out of our paychecks for a retirement contribution.”

Many questioned the need for any changes after the city conducted a similar study of employee benefits in 2012 in which several key adjustments to the plan were already made. Recently, Metro’s actuaries revealed that the city’s defined benefit plan is 83% funded, putting it in the top tier of public pension funds. CNBC reported that in 2013, the Nashville plan’s investment returns were the fifth highest of all city and state plans in the U.S. In other cities and states that have shifted to a “hybrid” type like the one proposed by Pew, costs to taxpayers increased while benefits for beneficiaries decreased. “If changing the system is actually going to cost the city more money and deliver less of a benefit to workers, why the heck would we do it,” asked Rick Beasley, a 911 dispatcher. “It sounds to me like Pew is creating a “lose-lose” situation that leaves taxpayers and employees paying more and getting less.”

“It ain’t broke, and we don’t need Pew fixing it,” said Jack Byrd, a corrections officer. Pew’s work has been funded by a foundation organized by billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron executive and hedge fund manager. Some have criticized Arnold’s efforts, saying that hedge fund managers like Arnold collect generous sums in fees for managing the funds while workers are left with reduced pension benefits.

The Service Employees International Union, Local 205, which represents thousands of Metro employees across dozens of city departments, agencies, and in Metro schools, made it clear that it opposes any changes to employee benefits. “Pew and their allies are proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Doug Collier, president of Local 205. “If there are any cuts that need to happen in Nashville, it should be to the tax breaks and corporate welfare being handed out to millionaires.”

Pew officials ultimately admitted in their interim report to the Study & Formulating Committee that Metro’s pension is in “solid financial shape,” but did find significant concerns with the unfunded liability the city has as a result of its retiree medical program. The Committee announced that Pew’s work in ongoing and another report is expected in the coming months to examine some remaining issues. The Committee’s next meeting date has not been announced yet.

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Election 2014: TN Constitutional Amendments – What Do They Mean?

WeThePeople copyYou are probably starting to hear more about the amendments to the state constitution which will be on the ballot this November. We wanted to let you know what the four amendments are, how they will appear on the ballot, and what they mean.

SEIU Local 205 HAS NOT TAKEN OFFICIAL POSITIONS ON THESE AMENDMENTS. This is to make sure you are aware of what the amendments mean in plain terms.

Amendment 1 -What it means:

This allows the State Legislature to make laws to prevent the termination of a pregnancy including situations related to rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother.

Amendment 2—What it means:

This requires all State Supreme Court and Appellate Judges be appointed by the governor and then approved by the State Legislature. Once the first term is completed, voters will chose whether to retain the judges.

Amendment 3—What it means:

It bans any personal income tax on the local or state level in Tennessee.

Amendment 4—What it means:

It bans any other type of lottery in the state unless approved by two-thirds of the State House and Senate. If any other lottery is approved, it must benefit only nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status.

 

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SEIU-Endorsed Candidate Pulls Major Upset Over School Board Chair in Nashville

Political_phonebankCheryl Mayes is the latest Metro school board chair to find herself ousted from elected office thanks to the strength of SEIU’s political program. Mayes lost by a margin of over 16 points, despite having the support of Nashville’s political establishment and the business community. Mayes was also a staunch supporter of the director of schools, Jesse Register, who the union has had repeated conflicts with since he arrived in Nashville. Mayes follows the pattern SEIU set in 2010 when the union went after and defeated the previous chair of the school board, Gracie Porter.

The union’s endorsed candidate, Tyese Hunter, who served in the U.S. Navy and is a mother of three children, offered many thanks to the SEIU members who helped ensure her victory. “I am extremely grateful to the SEIU for its belief in my candidacy and support for my campaign,” Tyese says.  “I believe that good, hardworking people are the cornerstone of any successful organization. Valuing those people in word and deed is critical to the ultimate success of MNPS—educating all children at high levels.”

Tyese was elected in school board District 6, which encompasses Antioch & South Nashville. Her term will expire in 2018.

 

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SEIU Gets Pay Inequity Addressed in Chattanooga!

SEIU members make their voices heard at Chattanooga city council.

SEIU members make their voices heard at Chattanooga city council.

Having finally gotten a new Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Chattanooga, SEIU members are weighing in on an issue that has gone unaddressed for years… underpaid city employees.

Approximately 1,200 workers under the general pay plan don’t have the option to move up the pay scale unless they are promoted or receive cost-of-living percentage increases. More than half of city employees are in a position that has a starting salary of less than $30,000.

After several appearances and demonstrations at the city council, elected officials are taking the union’s complaint seriously. They’ve commissioned a compensation study of employees in the general plan which will begin in September.

For the full story, read the article from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

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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.”

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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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Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Home Care in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

Home care workers and consumers are ready to stand up for quality home care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn.

“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”

The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care–and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.

“I count on my home care provider for so much–I wouldn’t be able to work or get through the day without her,” said Rahnee Patrick, a home care consumer and advocate from ACCESS Living in Chicago.” “I’m worried that I could lose her if her wages and benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton family. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.

“They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago. “Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.”

“For our parents and grandparents to get the care they need to live at home, workers need a strong voice in a union,” Henry said. “I know that Flora Johnson other SEIU members are determined to keep up the fight to end poverty wages and ensure quality care.”

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