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

New report from United Campus Workers revealing low pay, lack of health insurance, particularly troubling in light of the COVID-19 crisis

 Johnson City, Tenn.

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



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