It was standing room only as approximately 80 members of SEIU Local 205 filled the city council chamber in Chattanooga to ask legislators to review the Mayor's proposed budget and implement a raise for city employees which is more equitable for low-wage workers.
While Mayor Andy Berke has proposed a raise of 1.5% for employees, the union has asked for council members to look for ways to make the raise more equitable. "One and a half percent means a whole lot more to someone making 100 thousand a year than to someone making 20 thousand a year," said Doug Collier, president of Local 205. Robert Hart, who works for the Chattanooga Public Library, says that percentage won't amount to much for those whose paychecks are on the lower end of the scale. "For someone making 30 thousand a year, that's only an increase of $8.46 a week and that's nothing for these people," said Hart.
Clad in the union's signature purple and gold, dozens of Local 205 members came out in force and are part of a new wave of labor activism in Chattanooga. In recent weeks, SEIU has been attacked by radical anti-union organizations based in Washington D.C. after the union renewed its Memorandum of Understanding ("M.O.U.") with Mayor Berke in March. "Just like what happened at the Volkswagen plant, a bunch of Beltway millionaires are trying to drown out the voices of working Chattanoogans," Collier said. "I guess screwing up Washington wasn't good enough for these folks, now they're determined to ruin public services and working families with their threats and intimidation. All our members want is a fair shake and to be able to feed their families."
The Chattanooga council continues to debate the city budget, with a vote expected to happen in July. Find out more about this story from WRCB-TV.