Thursday, July 10, 2014

Crockett 7-10-14

Here are today's top reads from around Tennessee, brought to you by Crockett Policy Institute:

UAW to establish local union for Chattanooga VW plant
The United Auto Workers union will announce today that's it's forming a union local in Chattanooga to represent employees at the Volkswagen plant. Participation will be voluntary, and there will be no formal recognition of the union by the German automaker until a majority of its workers have joined, UAW officials have confirmed.

"We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees," UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel of Ashland City said this morning. "It's dependent on the employees and what they want to do."

If successful, the effort would mark the union’s first successful attempt to gain recognition at a foreign-owned automaker in the South, which is becoming a hotbed of auto manufacturing. As more manufacturing moves into the region, getting into more Southern plants is vital to the union’s long-term survival.-The Tennessean**SUBSCRIPTION**
Tennessee has 10 days to find a health-care fix

Nearly a year after its botched health-care rollout, the federal government says Tennessee is still making it too hard for people to sign up for insurance. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services director Cindy Mann has delivered a stern warning – and a 10-day deadline – for Tennessee officials to patch up its health-care network. At the center of the complaints is the state’s $35 million computer system, which has already undergone nearly a year of repairs. Those delays have left the state with no reliable way of confirming eligibility or accepting streamlined applications, which federal officials say is preventing thousands of eligible people from getting coverage.
Mann said her office has “engaged with Tennessee on multiple occasions to express concerns about the continued delays,” but state workers have “repeatedly expressed reluctance to deploy resources” to resolve the issues.-The Washington Post
UPDATE: Memphis 'Blue Flu' symbol of pension troubles
Faced with major changes to their health insurance benefits, more than 500 Memphis police officers have called in sick for the second consecutive day. They are protesting cuts aimed at helping buttress the city's troubled pension program, in a showdown that reflects wider struggles in cash-strapped urban centers across the country. Cuts approved by the City Council last month have led to protests from city workers, including police, who say they cannot afford the changes and feel betrayed by a city they have served and protected. City leaders have said public safety has not been compromised due to what's being called the "Blue Flu." But Memphis is not alone in dealing with consequences of pension shortfalls. Cities like Baltimore and Chicago have made changes based on pension issues.-WRCBTV
Distinguished young woman of Tennessee finale is Saturday
Twenty-four high school seniors are in Cleveland this week to form lasting friendships while in pursuit of the silver medallion that one of them will receive at Saturday night’s finale as the winner of the 2015 Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee (formerly Junior Miss) program. The participants arrived in Cleveland on Sunday to participate in community events while rehearsing for the two-day finals which start on Friday at The Dixon Center on the Lee University campus.  Showtime is at 7 p.m. both nights and two-day tickets are available for $55 and single-night tickets are $30.  The winner will receive her medallion from 2014 titleholder Courtney Miller of Tullahoma who recently returned from the national finals in Mobile where Brooke Rucker of Cartersville became the Distinguished Young Woman of America and won $57,000 in scholarships.-The Chattanoogan

Border security intensifies as issue in Tennessee Senate race
Border security is intensifying as an issue among Republicans in Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race, with Sen. Lamar Alexander calling for sending the National Guard to the Mexican border if necessary and challenger George Flinn traveling to the border last week. Alexander said Wednesday he will participate in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday in which he will urge President Barack Obama to “secure the border now — using the National Guard if necessary — and cut off aid to countries that don’t cooperate in stopping unaccompanied minors from entering” the U.S. illegally. “We need to send these unaccompanied children back home safely, as quickly as possible, and we should cut off foreign aid to countries that don’t cooperate,” Alexander said.-The Commercial Appeal**SUBSCRIPTION**
New training program for Tennessee teachers
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education is launching a program that will provide Tennessee teachers an opportunity to have a greater impact on key state-level education policy issues. The advocacy and research institution will select about 20 classroom teachers to serve a one-year term under the Tennessee Educator Fellowship. The fellows will learn about and advocate for policies, practices, and systems that impact educator effectiveness and student achievement.-Local 8 Now
Across generations: Macon Music program teaches students about Tennessee's heritage, traditions

As the Macon Music in-school educational program draws to a close, one of the participants at Bradley Academy said she is looking forward to performing traditional dances at Uncle Dave Macon Days that starts Friday. Gift Haynes, 8, was part of the 15-week program during the school year and enrolled in the week-long summer session that began Monday. The course, which is taught by award-winning  performer Tommy Jackson, is designed by Uncle Dave organizers as an educational tool to teach children about traditional Tennessean culture.
I started dancing when I was 6,” Haynes said. “I had fun here learning from Mr. Tommy... I feel like I’m going to be able to perform good. I won’t be nervous, and I won’t be scared. I will get my tap shoes ready.-DNJ
Tennessee takes steps to improve unemployment system

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has rolled out more improvements to the state’s unemployment system. For months, News 2 has been reporting on the long wait for unemployment benefits. Frustrated job seekers have been contacting the station describing problems getting through to the claims center. State officials have said the problem is too many calls coming in and not enough people to answer all of them.
We'd love to throw 100 more people at the unemployment system but we just don't have the money to do that," said department spokesperson Jeff Hentschel. The positions are federally funded.-WKRN
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