Chattanooga workers appeal to City Council for higher pay increases

Chattanooga workers appeal to City Council for higher pay increases

June 4th, 2014 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Other City Council Business

• Approved a 10-year tax break to French auto supplier, Plastic Omnium Auto Exterior. The company plans to supply bumpers and fender parts for the Volkswagen Passat sedan. The supplier will still have to pay the school portion of the property tax levy and the city and county taxes in gradual amounts over the next 10 years. If approved by the Hamilton County Commission Wednesday, the company will purchase a 27-acre tract of land at Enterprise South - that the county and city jointly own - for $1.4 million.

• Authorized the Chattanooga Police Department to purchase an electronic citation system for police officers for handheld equipment. The contract with Brazos Technology is for five years and costs $1.5 million.

• Approved a construction project of nearly $300,000 to improve the Shepherd Youth and Family Development Center's playground.

A janitor, a children's worker, and a sewage treatment worker were among dozens of city employees who filled the Chattanooga City Council chambers Tuesday to ask for more pay.

The stickers they wore read: "We need a raise."

The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union organized the show of support for better pay and a message to Mayor Andy Berke that his proposed 1.5 percent raise for employees in next year's budget is not enough.

One employee argued that raise equals about $8.60 a paycheck.

"You could buy a movie ticket, two gallons of gas and a cup of coffee or a meal at Burger King," said Robert Heart, who works at the public library.

Instead, the public service workers said they need to be paid on average a higher amount. Some argued for a .50 cent-per-hour increase.

Earlier this year, Berke signed a new agreement with SEIU, a public services workers union, that expanded workers engagement in wage and personnel decisions.

Berke's spokeswoman Lacie Stone said Tuesday night that the city's Human Resources department is evaluating pay issues for general employees.

"It's a complex issue that requires a strategic approach to ensure fairness and equity across the board," Stone said.

Councilman Moses Freeman said he hopes the city will take a look at adjusting the proposed budget to give employees better pay increase.

The mayor's office allocated nearly $1 million to the Chattanooga Police Department to resolve salary inequities that in some cases have resulted in new officers potentially making more money than their supervisors.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.