City Councilman Larry Grohn said Monday that a national Right to Work group is studying a 22-page memorandum of agreement signed by Mayor Andy Berke giving sweeping new rights to the Service Employees International Union, Local 205.
The Right to Work group is the same group that is involved in an effort to seek to block the United Auto Workers from gaining representation for Chattanooga Volkswagen employees.
Councilman Grohn told members of the Pachyderm Club, "It will be your tax dollars paying for 600 hours of union members speaking to employees of the city."
He said aspects of the agreement "are similar to what we have heard from a certain official in Washington. It's the same we have in our ivory tower on 10th Street."
Saying he had no advance notification of the MOU, Councilman Grohn said the Berke administration promised to have the most transparent administration but he said has turned out to be the most secretive.
He said, "I've been blackballed by the mayor since last October."
He stated, "Supt. Rick Smith tried for three weeks to get an audience with the mayor."
SEIU has had a limited presence at the city in recent years, but it will be much more involved in city government under the new agreement.
Under the three-year pact, it is agreed that any organizational wide pay increase or benefit change will not be proposed by the city without allowing a sit-down meeting with SEIU leaders over the proposed changes.
The union will also have say-so on any city personnel policy changes.
The union is to be provided full information on employee names, ID numbers, job classification, job title, dates of hire, department, division, section, race, gender and rate of pay.
The city is also to provide the union with an update of new hires or terminations.
When a compensation study is undertaken, SEIU will be at the table.
Under the pact, the city is to recognize union "stewards" at the workplace.
Union officials are to be granted access to employees on the job site after conferring with department heads.
The union will have the right to post notices on city bulletin boards, and the union can hold meetings with employees before or after scheduled working hours and during breaks and lunch.
An employee who has received any form of discipline will be given an opportunity for SEIU to intervene or his or her part.
The agreement calls for the union to be allocated 600 hours of release time with pay each year to be used for the stewards to attend conventions and meetings, stewards' training, to make presentations of up to 20 minutes to new employees, to exercise rights of access to city property and to conduct worksite meetings.
Mayor Berke agreed that the city will continue deducting union dues from city paychecks.
No form of intimidation or retribution is to be taken against an employee who signs up with the union.
The agreement says it is "entered into between the parties with the understanding that the city of Chattanooga, like all Tennessee municipal governments, has no statutory authority to enter into binding agreements with its employees."
It does not apply to fire and police or members of the mayor's office, the city attorney's office and department of human resources employees.
There is an agreement not to strike or have a work stoppage.
City officials said the city "has had an MOU in place with SEIU for several years. The joint MOU from 2007 expired when the previous administration left office.
"The MOU only applies to “employees who desire to be represented” of the general government non-exempt employees. At this time, SEIU represents about eight percent of total employees. The city of Chattanooga has 927 employees eligible to be represented by SEIU and, of those, 210 are currently members.
“The Union is to be provided full information on employee names….” - SEUI would have access to eligible public personnel records just as Chattanoogan.com, any other media outlet or private individual would have.
"The bottom line is we work with employees groups every day, like the FOP, IAFF, IBPO, SEIU and more, to ensure we have a motivated workforce. Employee groups represent our employees so that they have feedback on policies and participation in important decisions that affect them. A good example of this was the recent pension discussions where employees were represented by employees groups who were present through every step of the process. In addition, an MOU with SEUI is nothing new. The city of Chattanooga has had an MOU in place with SEIU for several years and it applies to those employees who desire to be represented.”