News

After meeting with over 50 Tennessee legislators at our lobby day yesterday, UCW sends important information on the other side of proposed "pension reform" to *all* legislators today, calling them to VOTE NO on HB 948 and SB 1005.

Safeguarding Our Public Servants’ Earned Benefits:

The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System/TCRS helps retain and recruit a strong and experienced workforce needed to continue to provide vital public services.

“Defined contribution” (DC) plans, such as 401ks, can disappear when the economy goes into another round of crisis.

Tennessee workers with DC plans faced considerable losses as a reult of the recent economic crisis caused by Wall Street’s fraudulent practices.

In 2009, expenditures stemming from state and local TCRS pensions supported 21,751 jobs and $357.1 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues in the state of Tennessee.

Retirees without defined benefit pension incomes are six times more likely to experience poverty than those with defined benefits.

401k-style accounts cost twice as much to fund the same retirement income level as traditional pension plans, making them an inefficient use of tax dollars.

TCRS remains one of the top funded state retirement plans in the nation with an over 90% funded ratio. TCRS is a strongly funded plan, has a significant asset base, and has positive cash flow.

There needs to be enough money in the bank to make current pension payments to retirees and to be able to afford a part of the payments for future retirees.

Stand up for a safe retirement and future for Tennessee’s public servants and preserve the TCRS pension plan!

To all Tennessee Representatives and Senators: Vote NO on HB 948 and SB 1005!

RESOURCES
• National Institute on Retirement Security website and reports, presentations: http://www.nirsonline.org/
• TCRS website: http://treasury.tn.gov/tcrs/index.html
• TCRS Summer 2012 newsletter: http://treasury.tn.gov/tcrs/PDFs/Newsletters/RA-Summer12.pdf

 

"Honestly, these proposals feel more philosophical than based in reality.  The economy just went through the worst economic downturn since the Depression;  of course earnings were down.  The fact that our plan is still over 90% funded despite the economic crisis reinforces its current form.  Lillard's basis for making the change seems to actually be a basis for keeping it.  It weathered the storm.  If folks had had their retirement in his proposed plan they would have lost significantly," said UCW President and UTK Facilities Services employee Tom Anderson.

"TCRS is not in crisis," says Anderson.  "We need sound government policies to rebuild after the economic shock we have been going through, not an ideological attack on public employees that funnels our salaries into retirement accounts administered by the same Wall Street bankers who have behaved like gamblers on a binge in Las Vegas."

Tennessee has largely avoided a funding crisis for TCRS through sound economic planning, choosing conservative investments, and making regular pension contributions.  Many other states spent that late 1990s and early 2000s making speculative investments and skipping pension payments.  As a result the gap between current reserves and future liabilities for those plans grew, ultimately reaching crisis proportions with the economic crisis in 2008.  In response many employers, both public and private have introduced so-called "hybrid plans."  But studies are finding that these  two-tier retirement plans, where new employees are diverted into a contribution-based plan and vested employees remain in the traditional pension, are actually increasing the funding gap for the pension, ultimately leading some plans to renege on retirement promises altogether.

"The facts are plain;  any legislation that removes new employees from the current pension will over time destroy our very solvent retirement system and constitute a massive pay cut for hardworking employees earning modest salaries," explains UCW Vice President and MTSU library employee Rick Kurtz.  Kurtz will submit his credentials for the upcoming Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System Board of Trustee election later today.  "My grandmother who was an English teacher instilled in me the importance of education, hard work and the responsibility of service to others.  Our higher education employees, state workers and teachers deserve to have the careers we give to the people of Tennessee honored.  If the person who comes after me also gives a lifetime of dedication to our state, she or he is as deserving of the respect of a secure retirement as I am."

For more information, please contact:

Tom Anderson, UCW President and UT Knoxville Facilities service employee
865-934-7373, [email protected]

Rick Kurtz, UCW Vice President and MTSU library employee
615-631-7174

On January 9 and 10 of this year, in the very first days of the new legislative session, Sen. Summerville (R, Dickson) introduced a series of seven bills to systematically end all efforts to undo the legacy of Jim Crow and segregation in our state’s educational institutions, and furthermore to get rid of all efforts to promote diversity, equality, inclusion, and to guard against bigotry, prejudice, and oppression in our schools, colleges, and universities.

The extreme proposals including measure to outlaw having anyone on any campus who, “promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion,” who assures “implementation of…[and] monitoring of compliance with” two titles of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX protecting women, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” SB46 seeks to prohibit the existence of even a single person who addresses charges of “discrimination and violations of federal laws, state laws, and institutional policies.”

Later this afternoon one of the bills in this package, SB8 will be heard in Senate Education Committee. SB8 is so broad that some higher education officials fear it “could impact any number of recruiting and programmatic areas, including all female, all male groups such as fraternities and sororities.” (UT Advocacy’s TN Legislature Notes 2/13).

Coinciding with the observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, UCW’s Executive Board issued a statement stating clearly our union’s commitment to “a workplace where everyone is respected, has due process and rights, and which is free from discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice against anyone,” and pledging “to stand up for ourselves, our coworkers, the students and the public we serve–to stand up for one another–in the face of so much injustice.”

We know that today's hearing is only a single first step in the process of trying to force these policies on our public colleges and universities, and much work is ahead of us. We encourage all higher education employees, students and community allies to contact Senate Education Committee members, and to make plans to attend our annual Campus Workers Day on the Hill, Tuesday, March 12 in Nashville.You can view the hearing live starting at 3:00PM CST here.

Committee Members:

Sen. Dolores R. Gresham, Chair
R-Somerville
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-2368

Sen. Reginald Tate, 1st Vice Chair
D-Memphis

Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-2509

Sen. Steven Dickerson
R-Nashville
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-6679

Sen. Charlotte Burks
D-Monterey

Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-3978

Sen. Stacey Campfield
R-Knoxville
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-1766

Sen. Rusty Crowe
R-Johnson City
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-2468

Sen. Todd Gardenhire
R-Chattanooga
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-6682

Sen. Brian Kelsey
R-Germantown
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-3036

Sen. Joey Hensley
R-Hohenwald
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-3100

"Coach Derek Dooley gets a buyout of millions of dollars.  UT administrators are promised a million dollars in bonuses.  Governor Haslam encourages a transition away from raises to help everyday working people keep up with the cost of living in his State of the State address.  And yet thousands of higher education workers across the state continue to make below, at, or just above the poverty line.  What's wrong with that picture?" asked Thomas Walker, UCW executive board member from Knoxville and clerical workers at the UT College of Social Work.  "It leaves you wondering if they have any idea what it's like for regular people struggling to get by."

Citing a lack of established, concrete metrics, fair and transparent procedures, lack of dues process, and a culture of cronyism that frequently rewards those who already make the most, UCW calls on the Governor, the legislature, and higher education administrators to distribute raise dollars fairly-  and that means equally and across-the-board.  Last year in the UT system, the top 100 merit raise earners brought home more than $1 million, with one person along receiving almost $28,000, while the bottom 100 merit raise earners brought home a total of about $10,600 combined.

"This nine cent, ten cent raise doesn't cut it; it isn't enough, with everything going up.  I want the same things that Governor Haslam and the administrators want.  I want to take care of my family just like they do, without having to work two jobs, " said Vivian Williams, University of Memphis custodian and UCW member.

While pleased that the Governor sees a need to continue to raise the low pay of the state's public servants, UCW is planning to advocate for policies that President Tom Anderson, of Facilities Services at UTK, describes as "the right thing to do.  If you divided the pot equally, everyone would get something significant, especially us who need it most.  Full time jobs should keep you out of poverty not in it, and until we can truthfully say that's the case we shouldn't even consider stuff like percentage raises and merit raises, which are demonstrated to disproportionately benefit the folks at the top while those of us at the bottom toil on with just a pittance."

For more information please contact:

Tom Anderson, UCW President-  865-934-7373, [email protected]

Thomas Walker, UCW member-  865-776-3094, [email protected]

SIGN UP HERE for UCW's Lobby Day Tuesday, March 11, 2014! And help spread the word on your campus.

On January 9 and 10 of this year, in the very first days of the new legislative session, Sen. Summerville introduced a series of seven bills to systematically end all efforts to undo the legacy of Jim Crow and segregation in our state’s educational institutions, and furthermore to get rid of all efforts to promote diversity, equality, inclusion, and to guard against bigotry, prejudice, and oppression in our schools, colleges, and universities.

In a signature bill, Senate Bill 46 or SB0046, he wants to outlaw having anyone on any campus who, “promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion,” who assures “implementation of…[and] monitoring of compliance with” two titles of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX protecting women, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” SB0046 seeks to prohibit the existence of even a single person who addresses charges of “discrimination and violations of federal laws, state laws, and institutional policies.”

Sen. Summerville and any of his colleagues who support his efforts want to turn back the tide of justice and equality to before the Civil Rights Movement, and deny even the most basic protections to students and workers of color, women, people with disabilities, and anyone discriminated against because of their age–in short, anyone who isn’t just like him.

Moreover, as attacks on public services and the public sector ramp up, especially against our schools and universities, attacks on all of us who make the public sector work will, too. Sen. Summerville’s bills are part and parcel of this trend, making our workplaces most vulnerable to discrimination and prejudice, and denying us even the small measures of recourse that we had already.

Well, to Sen. Summerville and his clique, we say: we want something different. United Campus Workers stands for a workplace where everyone is respected, has due process and rights, and which is free from discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice against anyone, and we’ve enshrined that in our Campus Worker Bill of Rights. We pledge to stand up for ourselves, our coworkers, the students and the public we serve–to stand up for one another–in the face of so much injustice.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

In the end what we want is a Tennessee for every Tennessean, not just the Good Ol’ Boys, and will oppose at every turn Sen. Summerville’s attempts or anyone else’s that stand in the way of democracy, equality, and justice.

-The United Campus Workers Executive Board

Join us for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events in Knoxville!

MONDAY, JANUARY 21:

FIRST:
United Campus Workers will be marching with our banner in the Knoxville Parade. Line-up at 9:15am and Step-off at 10:00am from the Tabernacle Baptist Church, 2137 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. Join us!

LATER:
United Campus Workers Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Banquet
6:00pm, UCW union hall (UNITE HERE), 1124 N. Broadway, Knoxville
Co-sponsored by Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee
FLYER
RSVP here!
 

Dr. King’s powerful message of economic, racial, and social justice is an important inspiration for the work we’re doing in our union everyday—for workers’ rights, for justice on our campuses, and for our many communities. Come celebrate his call for a society for the many instead of the few, and start your year off right!

Keynote speaker:
Brooks Sunkett, Vice President of the Communications Workers of America's Public, Health Care, and Education Workers Sector

Main dish provided
Potluck sides & desserts
Door prizes
Childcare provided
Disability access

The overall theme from the Knoxville MLK Commission this year is "Intelligence Plus Character." See a full schedule of all events beginning 1/16 and other information here.

www.ucw-cwa.org
www.facebook.com/unitedcampusworkers
www.jwjet.org
www.facebook.com/groups/135606270045/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Federal budget matters show up as state budget matters because of the huge amount of “pass-through” dollars from the federal to state level. Some of this funding goes to assist students with their college expenses. As state government support for higher education has steadily declined, tuition has skyrocketed. Since the 1980s, state appropriations in TN went from an estimated 70 percent to just 34 percent. Since 1990, average tuition increases at the state’s two-year colleges have increased 317 percent.

 

The Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) is slated to lose $186 million in funding, which includes the Federal TRIO programs, serving first generation, disabled, and low income students through outreach and student services. While Pell Grant funds are exempted from sequestration for FY2013, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) is slated to lose $140 million, which includes funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). Pellissippi State would have 8.2% of this funding cut this year, another 8.2% cut in work study funding, and programs funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities would also see cuts.

 

What does this mean for Pellissippi students?

 

Delonda Anderson is a “non-traditional” student who enrolled at Pellissippi State at a later age. After a divorce, she had trouble finding work with better hours than those washing dishes in a café. Currently a sophomore, she made the commitment to enroll full-time in order to concentrate only on school. Delonda believes higher education paves the way to better career options, enabling her to be a happier person, wife, and mother. Because she receives various forms of financial aid, if funding were cut, she would not be able to finish her schooling without taking out loans. From a mountain community in East Tennessee, she feels, “people don’t have any opportunity, especially in Appalachia. Congress doesn’t understand that when they cut programs, these are people you are investing in for the future of the country, people who contribute to the community.”

 

“Education is valuable in that it’s power,” said Mrs. Anderson. “If you take away the options people have to gain power, then it’s not a good society.”

 

###

Sources:

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/jun/12/tennessee-higher-education-now-haslams-focus/?local

http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/3665-potential-impact-of-the-fiscal-cliff-on-federal-student-financial-aid