Tennessee Tech Moves to Outsource Custodial Services, Balancing Budget with 80 Workers’ Lives

January 20, 2012

On Wednesday, January 18, Tennessee Tech custodians were called to a meeting and told to bring their keys. Jack Butler, Associate VP for Facilities and Business Services, told custodians that Tech has moved to outsource their jobs to contractor SSC Service Solutions, a company of the $9.9 billion food and support services multinational corporation Compass Group North America, based in the United Kingdom despite its name. Many custodians face choosing a severance package of which they don’t know the details or to work for Service Solutions, who will in all likelihood offer slashed wages and little to no benefits. “We’re being kicked to the curb, and I won’t work on a chain gang,” said one custodian about Butler and Service Solutions’ plan to have roving teams of custodians who never get settled in one building. However, the outsourcing is not yet finalized. The decision must still pass through President Bob Bell and the Tennessee Board of Regents/TBR and the Chancellor, and supposedly may take until May to be finalized, according to Butler. Conveniently, President Bell is currently reported to be vacationing in Hawaii.

President Bell Don't Outsource "Awesome!" - the fight to save custodian jobs continues at TTU

IB ImageMost of the Tennessee Tech faculty, staff, and student body—with solidarity and support from across the region and many in the Cookeville community—remain united against the idea that outsourcing or privatization of our custodial services will improve our campus or enhance the common good. On October 21, the United Campus Workers organized a rally and march to send a clear message to the Tech administration that our custodians are awesome and the idea of outsourcing is awful.

Our spirited rally invoked a Halloween theme, complete with zombies and grim reapers representing the dark threat of losing one’s job or benefits in this bumpy economy. Following spirited songs, chants, and speeches along Dixie, we marched with a coffin across campus and down Seventh Street towards the hospital, where we gathered for more speeches, finally concluding with a candlelight vigil and closing remarks from the Rev. Pat Handlson.

Brother Ed, Greatly Missed

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the tragic loss of our brother in struggle, Edward H. Wisdom Jr., a UCW member and retiree from Tennessee State University. Visitation will be held on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at Fifteenth Ave. Baptist Church, (9th and Scovel) from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Funeral ceremony will be conducted on Friday, November 4, 2011 at Fifteenth Ave. Baptist Church at 12 Noon.IB Image

UCW Endorses Lee Harris for Memphis City Council District 7

IB ImageThe United Campus Workers - Communications Workers of America Local 3865 proudly endorses Lee Harris in his campaign to represent District 7 on the Memphis City Council. Lee has demonstrated his commitment to struggles for social and economic justice in numerous ways, but one that we find especially important to mention is his long term membership and active involvement in our local union. Lee understands the issues working and middle class Memphians face in our daily lives, at home, at work and in our communities, and he will be fighting for us on the Memphis City Council!

We encourage our members, other trade unionists, and all others to actively support Lee's campaign. For information about how you can get involved call Lee Harris for City Council campaign headquarters at 901-324-8816.

Let's get our union brother elected to the Memphis City Council!

2011 UCW-CWA Convention a roaring success

This past weekend scores of campus workers spent their Saturday at our union's second annual Convention. Members run this union, and we use this annual state-wide meeting to set the political direction of United Campus Workers. During the afternoon session members moved and voted on a motion that affirmed the issues brought forward by literally hundreds of campus workers over the past months as the central components of a Campus Workers Bill of Rights.

Campaign Update: Getting what we’re organized to take

Workers win pay increases, struggles for Living Wages, adequate funding and rights continue

Last fall UCW, Tennessee’s higher-education union, launched an ambitious campaign for Living Wages and a real cost of living increase, to address the insurance hikes, to win rights for higher education workers, and to demand that our public colleges and universities receive the state funding that they are owed.

Given the economic attacks all working people are facing, we knew narrow complaints alone would not only fall short, they’d actually hold our efforts back. Rather than whining that “we should be put first for a change,” we said that “All Tennesseans need good jobs, with living wages and our public services.” We pointed out that everyone deserves affordable health care, instead of solely focusing on our out-of-control health insurance costs. We spoke plainly about the institutional poverty on our campuses: staff forced to work 2nd and 3rd jobs, long-time employees still barely paid $8.00/hour, adjunct faculty hustling jobs at multiple institutions for a few hundred dollars a credit hour. We demanded adequate funding.

UT Employees Appalled by Large Raises for Administrators

“You have got to be kidding me!” That was the response of many University of Tennessee employees upon learning that UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is in line for an 8% pay raise, at the same time the University is raising tuition and congratulating itself on giving faculty and staff a mere 2% across the board increase (with a $1,000 minimum) and the possibility of a merit raise from a 3% pool. (Click here for Knoxville News Sentinel reporting of proposed Chancellor pay increase)

United Campus Workers President Tom Anderson said, “President DiPietro wants to give Chancellor Cheek a $27,600 a year raise. That is more than my total annual salary, and it’s almost twice what the lowest-paid UT employees earn in a year.” Anderson has worked as a Buyer for UTK Facilities Services for ten years. He added that a 2% raise, even with the $1,000 minimum, is still less than $20 a week for anyone earning less than $50,000 annually – and that’s most of the faculty and staff. The median salary for regular employees at UTK in 2009 was about $38,000. “This raise won’t even cover the increase in employee health insurance premiums,” he said, “never mind the other costs that have gone up in the four years since our last raise.”

Raise Update at Tennessee Board of Regents

Earlier today the Tennessee Board of Regents Personnel and Compensation Committee met at Nashville State Community College. UCW was present at this meeting. Among the items on the Committee's agenda were employee salary increases for FY 2012.

The committee voted to recommend a system-wide salary increase of 3% or $750, whichever is greater. This recommendation now goes to the full Board for final approval.

The inclusion of a flat dollar minimum raise, a long time cornerstone of our union's work to win Living Wages for higher education employees will directly benefit 2,500 TBR employees across the state. Additionally, the added raise pool - 3% instead of the state mandated 1.6% - is positive news for all 17,000 TBR employees. Make no mistake, the long campaign for a real cost of living increase helped lead to today's decision

UT Pay Raise: One Down, One to Go!

In an email sent to all UT system employees this afternoon UT President DiPietro made the pay raise announcement official, pending Board of Trustee approval, and we won what we've been fighting for: flat dollar minimums ($1,000 for most employees, as much as $2,600 for the lowest paid). This is wonderful news, and with the increase in base pay to $8.50 it is also a major milestone in the campaign for Living Wages on campuses across the state. We hope that TBR Chancellor John Morgan and other members of TBR leadership will deciede to take a similar approach with pay raises on their campuses.

Union Members Rally At Campuses Across Tennessee For Fair Cost of Living Increases


UPDATE: UT Memo appears to confirm workers win campaign for $1,000 pay raise for all UT employees, union to press harder to ensure fairness for Tennessee Board of Regents employees.

Today members of United Campus Workers will rally at the campuses across the state in support of an equal-dollar raise for higher education faculty and staff. Workers will be joined by community and student allies including members of Workers Interfaith Network in Memphis, the University of Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, the University of Tennessee Progressive Student Alliance, and the ETSU Students for United Campus Workers. Rally participants will set up informational pickets at the three different locations.