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. 

With surplus revenue carried over from last year, isn't it time to stop poverty wages on our campuses?  Adjunct and contingent faculty have been making the same bad money for years, and many part-time or contract employees don't even see the raise.  Ask Governor Haslam to make eliminating poverty wages in higher education a top priority for his 2013 budget.  We know that real salary increases can move hundreds of workers out of poverty, cover the rising cost of living, and address salary equity issues.

Take action now for a real, fair raise for everyone in 2013!


Over 50 of us gave up a Saturday on September 8th to go to Nashville and shape the direction and vision of our union.IB Image

The day began with a breakfast, courtesy of our MTSU chapter. UCW President Tom Anderson called the meeting to order, and UCW Organizer Ash-Lee Henderson lead us in the rousing "My People!" exercise. We rounded out our convention opening with remarks from State Representative, Tennessee AFL-CIO President and UCW member Rep. Gary Moore. 

After introductions we moved into a presentation on our rights at work, and the situation we face as public workers in the US South. The presentation included information shared from the recent Southern Workers Assembly as well as a very substantive briefing from CWA District 3 General Counsel John Quinn (members who would like access to these materials can contact UCW at fairness [ at ] 

As we enjoyed lunch and prepared for the afternoon's training and strategy sessions, we shared stories of our organizing on campuses across our state. After lunch we attended workshops, and planned for the months and year ahead. We talked about the need for pay raises that benefit those that make the least, and prioritized efforts to win living wages, address dismal pay and working conditions of adjuncts, and secure additional funding for our higher education institutions and the staff and faculty that make them work with "Fair Raises for Everyone." Members discussed the nationwide attacks on public employee pensions, and how to fight back any efforts to dismantle our own TCRS pension plan.

With evening approaching we closed our 2012 Convention with the labor hymn "Solidarity Forever." Members exchanged contact information, more stories, handshakes and hugs, and departed for home. The mood was inspiringly upbeat, especially after such a long days work. As the song lyrics go, "the union's inspiration" was surely running through our veins!

Click HERE to see pictures from the day.

Weren't able to attend? There is still time to give input on our campaign moving forward. Fill out our Employee Fairness Survey, and identify the most pressing issues facing public higher education today!

Come grab a hot dog, chips, & a drink on campus THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 11am - 1pm on the North Patio. Download one of these flyers & post in your area today! Let us know if you want to help out here.

Flyer 1: 1/2 page

Flyer 2: 8.5x11

Want to help spread the word about the 2012 Statewide Convention? Download a flyer here and post it where others can see. And don't forget to RSVP today!

IB ImageThe third of Governor Bill Haslam’s roundtable meetings with “employers and educators” was held on July 31 in a west Knoxville boardroom at Scripps Network, a facility whose expansion the former Knoxville Mayor supported in 2007. The seats at the table were marked with nametags, for invited and expected attendees. Roughly a third of the seats were for area legislators (three Senators, four Representatives); administration from UT Knoxville, Pellissippi State Community College, Tennessee Technology Center-Oneida/Huntsville, and Knox Co. Schools made up the “educators” part of the table; and companies ranging from a local manufacturing plant to Volkswagen, Scripps, and Aqua Chem were there representing area “employers.” The expressed aim of these roundtables is to gather input on how to meet what are described as the three challenges of post-secondary education: 1) addressing costs; 2) producing more graduates; and 3) maintaining quality, with the overarching question being how to make it more “market relevant,” according to the Governor.

Two questions not being focused on nearly enough are, 1) Aren’t Tennessee’s campuses themselves employers?, and 2) How do we maintain quality with regard to the people we employ at our institutions of higher learning? At a minimum, paying people enough to provide for their families to live a decent life without reliance on governmental assistance or private charity, and that is on a par with wages paid at peer institutions and in private employment, is one way to ensure this.

Higher education is not only essential to our state’s economy, it is an economic engine. Middle Tennessee State University is the second largest employer in the city of Murfreesboro, the third largest in Rutherford County, and accounts for more than 10,000 jobs in the Nashville metro area (more than 13,000 if you include student and graduate student workers). And although MTSU receives public money to operate, MTSU-related activities create nearly as much tax revenue as the public support it receives . In east Tennessee, from 2006-2011, for every $1.00 of local revenues coming to Pellissippi State Community College, $3.70 of local business and $3.94 - $4.21 individual income were generated, for a total return on investment of $7-$8 on the local dollar.

IB ImageToday, the fourth of Governor Bill Haslam’s roundtable meetings with “employers and educators” took place in Memphis at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. Cedar Lorca Nordbye, Associate Professor of Art at the University of Memphis, changed the dynamic of the meeting when he raised his hand and was called on by the Governor. Afterwards, he commented, “I was happy to be there, the conversation is important, and I’m happy to see government paying attention. But I went into the meeting with some trepidation that with all the business leaders, it could be another step in the direction of the corporatization of American education. As someone who comes from the Liberal Arts and who teaches the Humanities, that concerns me greatly. It concerns me also because there is more at stake in higher education than jobs alone; there is the quality of jobs and the quality of life. I hope the university can strive to not just become a more efficient machine, but also a model for ethical citizenry.”

The people who make all this possible – the campus staff, faculty, instructional staff, students, and part-time workers – have been otherwise absent from the table at these meetings. We should be part of the equation for improving campus operations, for priority-setting, and for implementing what gets decided. Will we have any cards at the table when remaining “roundtables” take place? Will we even get advance notice?


Tom Anderson
United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s public higher education union

Monday, July 9,

Days after the University of Tennessee system’s Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents raised tuition and fees for their respective campuses, and following Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement of a conference on the future of higher education to be held this Tuesday, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America local 3865 has issued a call to Haslam to include staff, faculty, and students from the campuses in the dialogue. While invitees include politicians and even representatives of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, the Governor’s office left out invitations to those people who are at the heart of the state’s higher education system: its faculty, staff, and students.

“We’re confused and disheartened by the Governor’s choice to privilege business interests over the interests of the people who are most directly involved in the higher education system,” said Tom Anderson, President of UCW-CWA and staff at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “We want to be at the table because we think we’re in the best position to see what’s working—and maybe more importantly what isn’t working. Any solution is going toinvolve all of us, so why aren’t all of us being asked to participate in this conversation?”

UCW-CWA represents some 1,300 staff, faculty, instructional staff, student and part-time workers statewide on nearly a dozen campuses.

“This doesn’t just need to be a closed-door conversation of the 1% and politicians about what they want the higher education system to be. All stakeholders need to be at the table, especially the people who work, teach, and study at the schools,” said Anderson.

Viewing higher education as a crucial part of Tennessee’s economy and its democracy, UCW-CWA has issued a letter to the Governor’s office urging Haslam to include workers’ and students’ voices in any discussion about the future of the state’s higher education systems.

“If you want to know what’s going on, you need to ask the people who are there everyday, living and breathing it. We need representation at these meetings. These are public institutions, paid for with public dollars and tuition money, and their future is part of our future as a state. We all need to be at the table, not just the Big Wigs,” said University of Memphis custodian and UCW member Thelma-Jean Rimmer.

“What we as faculty fear is a centralized governance that standardizes curriculum across the state, thus eliminating a faculty's most vital role: designing curriculum to meet the needs of the students in front of them,” said Keith Norris, Associate Professor and 25-year faculty member at Pellissippi State Community College. “This type of closed-door meeting sends the wrong message and raises fears of the potential further corporatization of higher education.”

UCW’s letter was sent on Friday, July 6, 2012, and offers to provide representatives of staff, faculty, and student interests at the meeting planned for Tuesday.

“We hope the Governor listens and makes a fair and democratic choice,” said Anderson.

Make your plans to attend our union’s annual convention in Nashville on Saturday, September 8, 2012. Spread the word and carpool with others on your campus.

The statewide convention is a great experience, with educational sessions ranging on topics from your rights at work to how the state legislature works. Is there a burning topic that would speak to you and others on your campus and potentially around the state? Send it to us today at [email protected].

Read about last year's convention and see some photos here.

Local President Tom Anderson, along with union leaders from Pellissippi State and MTSU and UCW staff met with the Governor’s staff on Thursday, May 17 in Nashville.

The meeting was positively received, as members discussed issues central to our program including higher education funding, the need for flat-dollar pay raises instead of narrow percentage-based raises, recognition, and the impacts of the Complete College Tennessee Act.

We shared copies of the Campus Workers Bill of Rights, and left the meeting with our intention to continue building this relationship.

Additionally, campus workers at Pellissippi State and ETSU have met with their institution heads, while UT Knoxville and Tennessee Tech members are gearing up their plans to do the same, again as an opportunity to discuss our core issues and build a relationship. If you would like to take part in these meetings, contact your Chapter/Caucus VP/Chair, your Organizer, and/or attend the next campus meeting. Check out your Chapter/Caucus's page on our website for meeting information.