In January, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and his leadership team finished their review of the new Memorandum Of Understanding (“M.O.U.”) presented by SEIU Local 205 and have agreed to its terms.
The new M.O.U. between MNPS and SEIU includes language covering workers’ right to representation, the right to meet-and-confer over wages, benefits, working conditions, and other issues that matter to all support staff. Other articles of the M.O.U. clarify how the union and the school district interact with each other.
The agreement is the end result of the union’s “Fresh Start” campaign—a sustained effort by rank-and-file members to affect local politics and community initiatives which built an environment of trust and cooperation between both organizations. SEIU members worked on political campaigns, attended community events, participated in the search for a new Director of Schools, and hosted positive meetings that brought support staff and administrators together to find common ground and to unite around key principles that emphasized listening, respect, and the best interests of our public schools.
“This new agreement shows what happens when there is mutual respect between SEIU and MNPS,” said Brad Rayson, president of Local 205. “Dr. Joseph’s administration has shown both the support staff and our Union that respect. It benefits everyone if SEIU and MNPS are working together to improve our public schools and we are glad to be partners in helping the district strive for excellence.”
Thanks to ongoing advocacy by SEIU and its members, Metro Government employees in Nashville now receive paid family leave as part of their benefits package.
The new benefit allows Metro Government employees to have approximately six weeks of paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill spouse, parent, or child. The benefit is available for employees who have worked for Metro Government for at least 6 months. Employees did not have access to any paid family leave plan prior to passage. No state law in Tennessee or U.S. federal law currently provides for paid family leave.
The new benefit was made possible due to SEIU’s presence and activism on the Mayor’s Council On Gender Equity. The Council serves in an advisory capacity to Mayor Megan Barry and “will assess identified gender inequity issues and develop recommended solutions… that reflects the needs of all”.
Union members James Staub (Nashville Public Library) and Alisa Utley (Emergency Communications Center) were critical in the final stages of the Council’s work by providing testimony about the struggles they face. From the Council’s report:
“…When [James’] wife found out they were expecting twins James began to worry about how he would juggle the needs of a demanding career and the needs of his family. They already had a toddler son at home and the juggling act of two working parents was difficult, before the twins. James knew that his boss would be as helpful as possible but he was concerned because he loved his job and he was good at it but he also wanted to be present in his family responsibilities. He was concerned that he would need to use all of his leave time to care for his family and then heaven forbid if he got sick himself he would be out of time and could therefore face disciplinary action.”
“Alisa’s… mom was diagnosed with late term Leukemia. She was home bound and needed Alisa to take her to all her doctor appointments and treatments. Her Father was blind and had been cared for by her Mother but he too became dependent on Alisa for all of his daily needs. Alisa felt lucky to be able to work the overnight shift so she could care for both of her parents during the day. This went on for 8 years. During that period, the emotional stress of being a good employee and a good daughter was exhausting yet Alisa did it and continues to be a valuable employee to her department today. She says that she wished for flexibility of time so that she could have lessened the toll of caretaking and work.”
This is the end result of advocacy, action, and making politics work in favor of working people. Thanks to James and Alisa for sharing their stories with the Council On Gender Equity so that all Metro employees can enjoy this benefit which not only helps them and their families, but also ensures that the public continues to receive quality service.
The paid family leave benefit is the first item acted upon and passed by the Gender Equity Council. The Council will continue to be active for at least two more years.
Led by a strong Bargaining Committee, faculty at Lincoln College of Technology negotiated one of their strongest union contracts in decades. SEIU Local 205 has represented Lincoln (formerly known as Nashville Auto Diesel College) staff since 2000 and their role is to educate and prepare students for a career path of their choice in the automotive repair industry.
“We are proud of the hard work that went into our new contract, we’re grateful for all the support and resources that Local 205 has to offer, and as a result, we are proud of the education we provide our students,” said Lyman Parsell, the union’s chief steward.
The new agreement expires in 2020 and includes the following improvements:
- Wage increases totaling $2.15/hr over three years
- Company (not employees) pay for short term disability benefit
- $10,000 increase in life insurance coverage paid by company
- Improvements to grievance procedure
- More flexibility in using paid sick leave for doctor visits
- New 10×4 work schedule for Collision Department which gives flexibility to Lincoln but also protects employees’ rights
- New health insurance plan through a union trust fund starting in 2018. Good benefits with affordable rates with additional life insurance and vision benefit included. Set benefits for three years, instead of the company plan that could change every year. Only moderate increases in instructor contributions over the three years
- Stop company from eliminating the employer match on the 401k benefit
The union presented over 1,200 signatures from MNPS workers asking for a pay study for support staff.
The 2017-2018 operating budget for Metro Schools includes the major priorities which SEIU members have communicated to the school board and Dr. Joseph since the beginning of the school year.
Thanks to the efforts of SEIU members, this year’s proposed schools budget includes:
- 3% across the board raise
- Step increases for eligible staff
- Maintain benefits
- A compensation study for support staff
Getting the pay study included in the budget happened after over 1,200 support employees all across the county signed petitions and then turned out in droves to present the petitions to the school board.
Cost-of-living and step raises were just a few of the major issues that union members raised with Dr. Joseph, his administration, and the school board at a town hall meeting at the SEIU hall. That meeting also brought forward issues like tuition assistance, hiring more staff, and coming up with more ways for support employees to build a career in MNPS. Those issues have also been included in the budget proposal.
“Because our members have been so pro-active since the search for a new director of schools, the district is starting to get the message that support staff are critical to improving public education in Nashville,” said Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205. “This school year, we’ve had a record number of paraprofessionals, educational assistants, secretaries, bookkeepers, ISS monitors, campus supervisors, maintenance and cafeteria staff joining (or re-joining) the union and getting engaged in their workplace and it is making a difference.”
The MNPS budget will be presented to the Metro Council followed by a series of committee meetings and hearings in May and June, followed by a vote by the Council to accept a final budget to be signed by Mayor Barry.
For up-to-date information on the budget and all other issues that are important to MNPS employees, follow SEIU Local 205’s Facebook page or contact SEIU Local 205.
Union stewards for the MDHA chapter of Local 205.
For nearly three years, employees at the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA) in Nashville went without cost-of-living raises even though they were asked to do more with less thanks to several factors including a dip in Federal funding for the agency.
But thanks to solidarity along with a strategic plan that involved meetings with agency officials, board members, and local politicians, Local 205 was able to win a 3% wage increase in September.
“This was a long struggle, but worth the effort,” said Nat King Cole, a maintenance technician who serves as the chapter’s Chief Steward. “If we are going to continue to make improvements to our pay, benefits, and to services, we have to stick together and keep our union strong.”
Sheriff Daron Hall and SEIU leaders discuss possibilities for a new pay structure @ the DCSO.
As the union for employees at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, Local 205 has been aggressive about improving the pay and training for corrections officers.
After a consistent effort by SEIU, the DCSO revised a policy related to the training program for newly-hired corrections officers. Now, their probationary period begins when the training period ends. This is projected to help make new officers safer and to help retain good officers.
The policy change went hand-in-hand with a restructuring of the corrections officer pay scale which SEIU had input on during the city’s overhaul of the Metro pay plan.
“We were glad to work with Sheriff Hall to come up with a way to increase pay for new and existing officers, and at the same time, expand the training program which should help keep us safe on the job,” said corrections officer and union steward Robert Gilmer.
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.
The Board of Health discusses a presentation from SEIU members about the Health Department’s work rules and pay plan.
At their March meeting, the Board of Health adopted a new pay structure that restores hundreds of Health Department employees into a stepped pay plan and removes them from “open range” classifications!
SEIU has made no secret of opposing open range structures in Metro and we included that in the Union’s presentation to the Board of Health. Many of the Health Department employees who will have their steps restored will also see pay increases under this new plan.
Despite claims to the contrary, research shows that open range/merit pay structures do not improve performance for public sector employees and often do serious damage to morale. In recent years in Metro Government, open range plans have not been well-funded and the processes the city uses to determine who gets what is vague and inconsistent. And in the private sector, open range/merit pay structures (which are used nearly universally in the U.S.) have frequently been used to play favorites or to discriminate against women and minorities.
A struggle against open range in Metro Government is going on as Nashville Public Library employees push back to stop an expansion of open range classifications in their department.
When a major snowstorm rolled through West Tennessee last year, company officials at Medegen Medical Products disciplined dozens of workers who were unable to make it to work or got there late because of the weather.
SEIU filed a grievance asserting that the discipline was unreasonable because of severe weather conditions. The case was set for arbitration but the company agreed to settle the grievance. In the end, 22 members had their discipline reduced or thrown out while 4 other members received a cash settlement.