UCW Demands $15/hr minimum at UTC; Admin Must Prioritize Underpaid and Essential Workers

Chattanooga, TN - On Tuesday April 26, UTC Chancellor Steven Angle and Vice Chancellor Tyler Forrest made public the university’s budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Despite VC Forrest’s frequent description of the university’s financial health as robust and strong and his recognition of maintenance, housing, and custodial workers as “essential,” the proposed budget only advances full-time hourly wage workers to a $13/hour minimum wage, to begin in August. This plan falls short of the $15/hour minimum demanded by over 550 signatories to a petition for a living wage organized by members of United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s higher education union, along with UTC students and community allies.

While the City of Chattanooga and other public universities in Tennessee such as UT Knoxville, UT Health Sciences Center, and the University of Memphis have already implemented a $15/hour minimum wage and worked to address salary compression, UTC has fallen behind and is failing its most vulnerable workers. According to the MIT living wage calculator, a single worker in Hamilton County currently needs a wage of $29,065/year to support themselves. Nearly 80 full-time UTC workers earn less than this amount, despite rising housing costs and inflation in the Chattanooga area. This figure does not include countless student workers, many of whom make $7.50/hour at campus jobs.

A budget is a moral document and a reflection of institutional values. UCW will continue demanding that UTC administration immediately rectify pay inequities for the most underpaid workers. We call on the administration to distribute the anticipated 4% salary pool increase by first increasing wages for the lowest-paid staff, and not those at the top of the salary scale. With the administration's current proposal, the employees already making the most money would receive the largest raises. In addition, we call for the administration to provide clear and specific plans to increase the university’s minimum wage to $15/hour in the 2022-23 fiscal year. 

###

United Campus Workers - Communications Workers of America Local 3865 is Tennessee's higher education union, comprising over 2,200 faculty and staff across the state. UCW organizes for economic justice and democracy on campus and across Tennessee. More information at www.ucw-cwa.org.