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. 

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!


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!

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
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.

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.”




Members of UCW met with the Governor's staff on Friday, November 30 and emphasized the need for living wages and fair raises for everyone to be included in this upcoming budget.  Click HERE to send a message to the Governor on this important issue!  It only takes a couple of minutes to let your voice be heard!

UCW has also launched a postcard campaign that is being sent to Governor Haslam.  Email [email protected] if you would like some for yourself and your coworkers to send!

Again, please take a minute to send a message to Governor Haslam about the need for living wages and fair raises.  Click HERE to send a message to the Governor!


To meet the basic cost of living in Memphis a person working full time must be paid at least $11.62/hr*. That's the Living Wage here. Both Shelby County and Memphis City acknowledge this number, and pay their workers a living wage at the very minimum. 

In a recent meeting University of Memphis administrators also acknowledged that $11.62/hr is the minimum pay required to meet the cost of living. 

And yet, many hundreds of University of Memphis workers, custodians and adjuncts, grounds keepers, clerical workers and graduate students, and many others, are paid what is literally a poverty wage. Many workers are forced to work 2 or 3 jobs, or rely on charity or government assistance to get by. 

Poverty wage policies at the University of Memphis are formed by the concrete and legal legacy of Jim Crow in the south. They are also shaped by a national trend to force universities to function more and more like corporations, treating diplomas as a commodity, and workers as just another cost.

Come hear workers speak their story, hear simple hard facts, and decide for yourself. The event is sponsored by 

United Campus Workers, Progressive Student Alliance, and Workers Interfaith Network.

You're invited to a community forum & mass meeting to discuss domestic partner benefits at UT and in higher education. This meeting is geared toward finding a way forward (in conversation and action) to make this university a more equitable, just and non-discriminating institution. While the administration has dismissed the unanimous Faculty Senate resolution calling for partner benefits and the community's demand for justice and fairness, we want to come together to think of a way forward. UT has a long history of trying to keep the bottom line as low as it can on the backs of its workers, and us workers have a long history of fighting back!

Tuesday, October 16th at 5:30pm
12th Floor Conference Room in McClung Tower in Humanities Plaza
UT Campus
Download flyer here


ALL Faculty, Staff, and Student allies are invited to join in solidarity (Alumni are welcome too)! We need everyone to put needed pressure on administration to do the right thing. 
Please pass this along to all interested persons and groups.

It is hosted by United Campus Workers, Tennessee's public higher education union, and its allies.

------Background information-----------------------
Last semester in April the Faculty Senate proposed a resolution in support of extending existing employee benefits for spouses of married couples to same sex couples who, in the state of Tennessee, are not afforded such legal standing. 

Education, leave and health benefits are a few among others that were proposed in this resolution and unanimously agreed upon by all Faculty Senate members. 

Monday, September 24, Chancellors Larry Arrington and Jimmy Cheek finally responded to the resolution with a three paragraph statement that many in the UT community feel was too brief, vague, disrespectful and insensitive.

In one of the more publicized lines of the Chancellors’ response letter, they wrote that the proposal was: "inconsistent with the public policy of our state expressed in constitutional and statutory provisions." However, the letter did not outline which policies or laws they were referencing and how those laws were being interpreted. 

There were a variety of responses: Most notably, faculty members Wanda Costen and Tina Shepardson's interview with (1), Commission for LGBT People Chair, Keith Kirkland’s, poignant open letter to Chancellor Cheek an Arrington (2) and student Eric Dixon’s opinion column in the Daily Beacon (3). See links below. 

If you would like to receive the email version of this invite please contact Thomas Walker at [email protected] or the United Campus Workers at 865-329-0085