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

Memphis, TN - On Tuesday, University of Memphis President Rudd emailed all campus workers announcing a commitment to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour effective June 5, 2021.

UCW Members are invited to join "Labor & Black Struggle in the South," an urgent conversation about the role of Labor and the transformational possibilities of buildin

Communications Workers of American local 3865 | Tennessee’s Public Higher Education Union



Put the People First, Governor Haslam: Education and Healthcare are Both Critical to Tennessee


December 8, 2014
Last week, amidst growing speculation that he will run for President,  Governor Haslam held his annual budget hearings with officials from state agencies and higher education. Throughout the week, and in an interview with Nashville Public Radio, Governor Haslam argued that our state has to choose between providing affordable healthcare or quality, public higher education to Tennesseans.


“These are false choices. Tennesseans desperately need high quality public education and affordable healthcare,” said United Campus Workers (UCW) Executive Board member and UT Knoxville employee Thomas Walker.  “The governor and General Assembly always seem to find money to give themselves pay raises and give hundreds of millions in tax breaks to big corporations. The real choice we have to make is between subsidizing billionaires or assisting Tennesseans most in need of help – students, higher education employees, Tennesseans without healthcare coverage.”


The poorest 20% of Tennesseans pay 11.2% of their income in taxes while the richest 1% only pay 2.8%. The poorest Tennesseans pay a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes, yet the Governor remains determined to cut services that benefit them the most.


Since 2008 Governor Haslam and his friends at the Capitol have raised tuition for students and slashed wages for university workers with $200 million in cuts to higher education. They locked in these cuts and tied future funding to poor metrics of educational achievement. Despite misgivings, students and educators rose to the challenge and met many of the new criteria, yet Governor Haslam further slashed higher education in his 2015 budget.


The Governor’s mean-spirited attempt to pit education against healthcare also ignores the fact that Tennessee has lost over $842 million dollars in the last year because the Governor refused federal funding to expand Medicaid. The true cost of this isn’t best measured in dollars, but in the human cost as low-income Tennesseans are forced to choose between doctors’ appointments and groceries.


“Graduate assistants work hard every day at the University of Memphis, yet we make poverty wages. Some earn as little as $9,000 a year.. Many graduate assistants can’t afford to buy healthcare out of pocket, the University doesn't offer it, and because the Governor refused Medicaid funding, many graduate students don’t even benefit from the Affordable Care Act. The Governor claims to care about education, but as a graduate student, I certainly don't feel prioritized.” said Josh Dohmen, a graduate student at the University of Memphis.


“I don’t see how a hospital closing in Haywood County because of the Governor’s refusal of federal Medicaid funding is beneficial for higher education,” said Tom Anderson, UCW President and UT Knoxville employee. "We need Governor Haslam to explain how bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into Tennessee is bad for the state.  It just doesn't make sense.  My family is from coal country. They worked hard their whole lives, suffering without healthcare, all because the Governor is using his own citizens' lives as bargaining chips.”

Anderson continues, “Tennessee has finite resources, no one is arguing that point, but the governor’s false dichotomy hides the real question: how can we use our finite resources to serve the needs of all Tennesseans. Our answer is that Governor Haslam needs to put the people first. Our state needs living wage jobs, high-quality, public education, affordable health care, and respect for our democratic rights to vote, organize, and exercise our constitutional freedoms.”


Resources: Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, January 2013:

Governor Haslam Looks Like Presidential Contender:




Members available to be interviewed - For more information, please contact:

Cassie Watters

United Campus Workers


University employees voted at their most recent union convention to formally join the nationwide "Fight For $15" movement. News of the University of Memphis's plans confirm what workers across the country are seeing. The tide has turned in the fight for living wages, with cities like Seattle passing $15 minimum wage ordinances, and many others following suit. Across Tennessee campus employees have come together with fast food workers with Show Me $15 and Memph15, with teachers, faith leaders, the State Conference of the NAACP, and many others to build a Moral Movement to Put the People First, demanding an increase in the minimum wage, fully-funded public education, and democratic rights. 

Rally for living wages at University of Memphis with Councilman Lee Harris (left) April 2013. Campus workers have lead campaigns for living wages and their union since September 2010
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"Tennessee lags a point and a half behind the national unemployment rate. At the same time states and cities that have increased the minimum wage have lead all others in job growth and economic development," says UCW-CWA statewide President Tom Anderson. Anderson, a buyer in Facilities Services at UTK continued, "Our public higher education institutions are major employers in communities all across our great state. That is part of why living wage campaigns here are seeing such support for students and community members. This is about demanding an economy that works for working people, and not just the top wage earners. I applaud President Rudd's decision to move forward this recommendation, and look forward to congratulating the Chancellor and members of the Board of Regents on its passage."

"President Rudd has taken an important step and shown real leadership on this issue. Moments like this stay with you, and sustain you for the long hall. Being from Memphis, the push for civil rights did not end with Brown versus Board of Education, it didn't end with the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act, but each of those were critical. We have to make sure that all campus employees, at Aramark and other contractors, the adjuncts, the graduate students get this and that we keep fighting for $15 like the McDonalds workers are fighting for. I'm fired back up, I'm ready to speak!"


Full Text of President Rudd's email to all staff and faculty:

Subject: Exciting News: Increase of UofM Minimum Salary

For the past several months, we have been evaluating employee salaries and looking for ways to create an affordable living wage for our lowest paid employees. While we can all agree that we have experienced challenging times, thanks to your hard work and dedication we have made great progress in creating efficiencies and positioning the University for continued growth. I am pleased to announce that the University of Memphis has requested Tennessee Board of Regents’ approval to increase the minimum salary for all employees in regular, benefits-eligible positions to $10.10 per hour, effective January 2015. This increase is in line with a recent executive order to raise the salaries of federal service workers to this same amount.  It also represents a 14% increase for some of our lowest paid employees and is over 28% higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Taking this step is a demonstration of the University’s commitment to compensate our employees adequately.  Employees will also continue to receive longevity pay between $300 and $3,000 per year, based on their years of service to the University and the State of Tennessee. We are excited about this increase and are committed to continuing to evaluate the University’s compensation structure and making additional changes as funds permit.

Thank you for making the University of Memphis a great place to work and a top employer in Memphis. Your dedication and hard work makes us strong and positions our students to better compete in this global economy.

If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Human Resources at [email protected].

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd | President

Distinguished University Professor
University of Memphis
341 Administration Building
Memphis, TN 38152

ph: 901-678-2234 | fax: 901-678-5065 | Cell: 901-619-1769

Email: [email protected]




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Without campus workers, our campus wouldn’t work—but that reality isn’t reflected in the budget. Despite the fact that thousands of us public higher education employees across Tennessee make less than a living wage, and many more of us make right around it, while all of our wages and salaries fall far below that of our peer institutions, we aren’t a priority for state spending. Tuition and fees are going up on our students; buildings are getting built all around our campus; but our wages—well, they’re right where they’ve been for a while. It's been nearly two years since we saw any increase in our wages. That’s why we’re taking action. We’re calling for a budget that puts the people first.

Budget deliberations are happening right now at the campus level, and within the month are going to start at the state level. We need to speak out for ourselves and one another to make sure we’re a priority!

We're asking you to take a photo of yourself like these: "I want a budget that puts the people first!" Then send it to us: [email protected] with your name, title, and where you work. We’re going to get them out there over Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Do you want a budget that puts people first? Take a selfie today!


Help us build a movement for living wage jobs, our public schools, and our democracy. We need living wage jobs and a real cost of living raise for campus workers, not minimum wage jobs that keep Tennesseans in poverty. Instead of attacking our public schools and teachers at all levels, we need legislators to strengthen public schools by providing the resources and robust funding our public education institutions so desperately need. And in the midst of all this, we need to send a firm message to the legislature that we will not tolerate threats to our democratic rights to vote, protest, and organize.


Let's come together in solidarity, share, learn, plan, and get fired up!


Hundreds of campus workers, students, and allies rallied on Nashville on March 11 as part of our Lobby Day. 

Like Put the People First on Facebook! We're building a movement for economic and education justice in Tennessee!

Sadly, this is not an April fool’s message...

Yesterday afternoon Gov. Haslam axed your raise, and slashed much needed funds for higher education.

“Despite assurances that higher education would be fully funded, that real resources would couple the ‘Drive to 55’ rhetoric, and that Tennessee would lead the country in improving salaries for educators, once again our governor has failed to make good on his promises,” said Tom Anderson, UCW-CWA President and UT Knoxville Facilities Services employee. “It’s the saddest of ironies that his budget amendment comes the same day we learn that he and his staff used a $300 million slush fund to bully Volkswagen workers rights.”

In response, we're calling on members and supporters to step up our game: sending emails, making phone calls, and speaking with friends, coworkers, and community neighbors about what is happening and how we can change it.

Nationally the economy is growing, but in Tennessee the vision pushed by Gov. Haslam, the majority in the General Assembly and their elite allies has failed working people. Our state is facing another budget shortfall, but this time it is not because of a national financial crisis. Instead, it’s because of the Haslam’s scheme of massive giveaways of public money through business incentives and tax-breaks, and creating a low-wage economy; attacks on our public education system from K-12 to higher education; and attacks on our democratic rights to vote, organize, and have a voice. 

It’s time to fight for a vision for what our state should be, a vision of Tennessee that puts the people first! Our vision is one where there are good jobs that pay us decent wages, provide benefits and health care; where we and our kids have access to free, quality, equal public schools that are directed by educators, not corporate lobbyists; a vision where all of us can participate.  



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United Campus Workers is Tennessee's higher education union;  the only voice made up and run by staff and faculty at Tennessee's colleges and universities. UCW members are active organizing for our interests on our campuses and at the Tennessee General Assembly. JOIN US and help strengthen our movement! There is power in numbers, lift your voice today!

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The University of Memphis presidential search proceedings are well underway and continue to move quickly. The presidential candidates' visits to campus finished this morning. Now we have until 5:00 tomorrow, Wednesday March 26th, to fill out the online evaluation forms for the candidates:

Guy Bailey Professor / Former President  University of Alabama    Sharon Gaber Provost / Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs University of Arkansas    George W. Hynd Provost / Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs College of Charleston    David Rudd Provost University of Memphis

The 24 member presidential search committee, which included only four faculty and 2 staff, announced on Friday March 14th four finalists from a field of over seventy. Beginning last week these finalists held public forums and interviews on campus. If you were unable to attend the candidate forums, video is available online: Candidate evaluations submitted by 5:00 tomorrow will be received by Chancellor John Morgan, who will review them before he selects the next president of the University of Memphis.

We are also keenly aware of serious concerns many colleagues have raised about the inclusion of current Provost David Rudd on the list of finalists. Over the last nine months Dr. Rudd has led the university toward sharply decreasing the funding for some academic departments, especially in the liberal arts, and the implementation of RCM for campus budgeting. Most strikingly have been the significant layoffs across campus, an extreme departure from past campus practice even during the recession.

The other three candidates are Sharon Gaber of University of Arkansas, Guy Bailey of University of Alabama, and George Hynd of the College of Charleston. All have experience with large institutional budgets and extensive professional and instructional records with top universities. It is important for us to be engaged in this process because the future president will determine University policies that are going to significantly impact our job security, work environment, and the quality of services we are able to deliver to our students. Please take a moment to review the candidates, and let your voice be heard today or tomorrow before 5:00 p.m.

Not a member?

United Campus Workers is Tennessee’s higher education union; the only voice made up and run by staff and faculty at Tennessee’s colleges and universities. UCW members are active organizing for our interests on our campus and at the Tennessee General Assembly. JOIN US and help strengthen our movement! There is power in numbers, lift your voice today!


Over 350 Tennesseans, lead by United Campus Workers and other CWA members rallied on March 11 to tell Governor Haslam to PUT THE PEOPLE FIRST

Join the movement to Put the People First in Tennessee!

These Tennesseans called for living wage jobs, fully funded public education, and that Nashville respect our democratic rights to organize, protest, bargain, and vote freely. It was the start of a movement throughout Tennessee to Put the People First, and grassroots worker, community, faith, and student organizations have come together to form the coalition. At the Capitol, we rallied, then delivered a letter to Governor Bill Haslam, calling on him and the Tennessee General Assembly "to make the interests of Tennessee working people your top priority." See a video from The Tennessean here.

Don't miss Put the People First May First!

Tennessee politicians "have abandoned everyday people and pursued an agenda that favors huge corporations and the super wealthy," coalition members said in the letter. "Our coalition has come together because ours is a different vision of Tennessee - one where we have good jobs that pay us decently and provide benefits; where our kids have access to free, quality, equal public education that's directed by teachers, not corporate lobbyists; and where all of us can participate," we wrote.

What's next? This burgeoning and rapidly growing coalition is beginning to plan actions around the state to Put the People First on May First. Will you be there?

*The broad coalition sponsoring the rally included:
Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, United Campus Workers-CWA Local 3865, UAW, Workers Interfaith Network, Jobs With Justice, Show Me 15 Workers Organizing Committee, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Tennessee NAACP, Sierra Club, Tennessee Chapter, Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, Statewide Organizing For Community Empowerment, SEIU Local 205, Workers' Dignity Dignidad Obrera, Chattanooga for Workers, Progressive Student Alliance UTK, United Students Against Sweatshops, Tennessee Citizen Action, Organizing for Action Davidson County, UFCW Local 1995, Concerned Citizens for Justice, Healthy and Free Tennessee, Southeast Laborers' District Council,  Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt (OUR Vanderbilt).

Join us to Put the People First on May First -- and beyond!

Not a member?

United Campus Workers is Tennessee's higher education union; the only voice made up and run by staff and faculty at Tennessee's colleges and universities speaking up for our issues. UCW members are active organizing for our interests on our campuses and at the Tennessee General Assembly. JOIN US and help strengthen our movement! There is power in numbers, lift your voice today!