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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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Local 205 Endorses Megan Barry in Nashville Mayor Runoff Election!


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.


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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