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.

Murfreesboro, TN - As students return to campus with no COVID safety measures in place during the omicron surge, members of United Campus Workers distributed free N95 masks

Campus workers, community members, and allies are invited to join us this MLK Day for a celebration honoring Dr. King's legacy and the continued fight for racial and economic justice.

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.

Temporary and adjunct contracts are forcing many of our best teaching professionals to work in increasingly exploitative conditions. In the face of these conditions, UCW’s Contingent & Adjunct Caucus has been busy organizing a campaign to win justice on campuses across the state. The caucus has just launched a survey to collect data about Tennessee adjunct and contingent working conditions. If you are an adjunct or contingent faculty member, please fill out the survey! If not, please pass it along to colleagues who are.

Access the survey here, complete it and pass it along to colleagues if you haven't already. Post a flyer about it in your building! Let's collect as much data as we can! And be sure to check out our blog on these issues, Higher-Ed Hand Tennessee.

After months of lobbying legislators, making phone calls, sending emails, and organizing public events from the Capitol Steps to campuses across the state, we now know that the new state budget includes a 2.5% raise for all higher education workers. We know that UT workers will again receive a minimum of at least $1,000. These are positive steps forward that have only happened through our work to win fair pay for all campus workers. But pushes for flat dollar raises, living wages and equal pay for equal work in higher education are ramping up.

We need your involvement in these efforts. Visit the union’s webpage and contact us today at [email protected] to find out how you can help! And spread the word on social media here!

Percentage raises are unfair because they disproportionately benefit the people who already make the most. While the President would receive nearly $10,500, many secretaries, custodians, and teaching staff would get as little as $1000. Over 30% of Tennesseans working full time make less than the poverty line. In a time of unprecedented income inequality, we shouldn't be using our community tax dollars to make the rich richer while the poor get poorer. What we need is a flat dollar raise.

Knoxville was rated the third worst city in the US for working women, with a 38% wage gap between women and men's incomes. A 2005 study found that UT women faculty made only 75% of their male peers' salary. We know that many of UT's lowest paid positions are worked primarily by women. Percentage raises will only worsen the gendered wage gap. Flat dollar raises will start to close it, helping everyone who doesn't make enough to get by, while also overcoming unequal pay to women for their work.


Contact President Joe DiPietro: Contact Chancellor John Morgan:
865-974-2251 615-366-4403
[email protected] [email protected]  
twitter @utpresidentjoe