Knoxville, TN - After more than two years of campaigning by United Campus Workers, on Monday, March 1 at the monthly Faculty Senate meeting at the Univers

UCW has launched an open letter calling on Governor Bill Lee to include higher education employees in COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans. 

Check out the different media stories on the event at

If you haven't taken action on this issue, take a moment to send a message to key UT decision makers by clicking HERE.  

"We want to inform the wider community about conditions in the department, and to call on the administration to make a commitment to improve them," said Josh Smyser, a Building Services employee and UCW member.  "At a public institution, this kind of bully culture is completely unacceptable, and the record shows that management is making it unbearable."

The department has seen an out flux of employees due to these poor conditions, even as in sourcing, implemented in part to avoid high turnover and lack of a stable, committed workforce, has created the need for more employees.  According to a Freedom of Information Act obtained from UT, 58 employees have been terminated or resigned since January of 2012.

"Our time is for sale, our pride is not," said Troy Grant, a Building Services employee and UCW member.

Some custodians have come forward because they have been assigned to work in unsafe environments.  Others have noted that the atmosphere is "just plain disrespectful," and have been the targets of or witnessed verbal abuse from supervisors.

Alarmingly employees also point to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in which those who speak up against these conditions are subject to the threat of discipline and retaliation by their supervisors.  "If you speak up, you know they're gonna put you on the list [to be fired], said one custodian, who did not wish to be named precisely for such fears.

Organizers hope that Wednesday's event will garner broader campus and community attention that will demonstrate the urgency and stakes of the problem, and force accountability.  Custodians, their supporters, and the media are encouraged to arrive at the Shiloh Room at 3 pm.  

For more information, contact:
Cameron Brooks at 865-387-4408, [email protected] .

As Senate Bill 1005 and House Bill 948 go up for another committee vote Tuesday, March 26, higher education employees question the full cost analysis and the potential risk that this “reform” may cost taxpayers more in the long run, not less.


March 25, 2013


Dear Governor Bill Haslam,


As representatives of 1,400 campus workers and Tennessee residents, we are concerned that there has been insufficient attention paid to the costs associated with the state’s pension reform plan. While the Treasurer’s reform proposal included three options for reform and one recommendation, all options did not receive a full cost analysis available to the public.


A thorough cost analysis is particularly important because research from the National Institute on Retirement Security has shown that the effects of these reforms are often misleading. Their study “A Better Bang for the Buck” shows that it costs employers 46% less to operate a defined benefit (DB) plan than it does for a defined contribution (DC) plan while delivering the same level of benefits. Since taxpayers are the employer for state employees, we must ensure that money is not wasted and the costs of all pension reform options are fully examined. In line with this research, many states and municipalities have conducted feasibility studies of switching from the DB pension to a DC plan. Each of these studies have found that such a move would save little to no money in the long term, and could actually increase retirement plan costs in the near term. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of these states or municipalities opted in favor of the DC switch.


The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System is in very good fiscal health, and it is unclear why there is a need for changes that may increase the burden on taxpayers. And while the proposed changes only affect new employees, it is important that the state provides quality benefits for all members of their workforce, regardless of their tenure. We are asking you to reconsider the expedited approach of these reforms and submit each proposed reform to an actuary to measure the costs and make that information available to the public. Without this information we should not be moving forward on such an important measure.




Tom Anderson

President, United Campus Workers

UT Knoxville Facilities Services employee



Better Bang for the Buck report
Study of the Wisconsin Retirement System


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!

• National Institute on Retirement Security website and reports, presentations:
• TCRS website:
• TCRS Summer 2012 newsletter:


"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

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
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-2368

Sen. Reginald Tate, 1st Vice Chair

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

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

Sen. Charlotte Burks

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

Sen. Stacey Campfield
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
Phone: 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 1-6682

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

Sen. Joey Hensley
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.