2010 UCW-CWA Candidate Questionnaire

We are United Campus Workers—Communications Workers of America (UCW-CWA).  Thank you for taking the time to participate in our 2010 Candidate Questionnaire for candidates for Tennessee state legislative office.

We are made up of over 1,100 higher education staff and faculty who work for Tennessee’s public colleges and universities, and are part of the Communications Workers of America, which represents over 700,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. 

 

Our mission is to advance and defend the interests of all Tennessee higher education staff and faculty, as well as promoting solidarity, democracy, and advancing social and economic justice in our workplaces and in our communities.

In these tough economic times, the threat of budget cuts and layoffs in needed public services worsens as we get closer to falling off the edge of the stimulus funding cliff. The negative impact of cuts on our students and communities has already been felt and we worry about the inability to recover from the deep cuts that have been guaranteed in 2011, unless action is taken.

We invite you to answer the following questions to help us better understand your position on the issues that are critical to Tennessee’s future.  This same questionnaire is being made available to all candidates running for state office in Tennessee, and the results will be made public through our website and newsletter.

If you have any questions regarding this survey, please email mailto:fairness@ucw-cwa.org or call 1-877-292-3865.

 

Please include the legislative district with this submission.

Section One- Revenue/ Spending

The demand for public services, including higher education, is at an all-time high, yet funding for those services is the lowest it’s been in years, and cuts are looming. At the same time, major corporations doing business in Tennessee routinely use creative accounting practices to take their profits out of state to avoid paying taxes that fund our state services. Twenty-one states have enacted combined reporting to stop this drain on their state budgets and to level the field for locally owned small businesses.

Section Two:  Living Wage

Thousands of higher-education employees earn salaries that are at or below the poverty level. There are full-time employees, many with years of service, who qualify for public assistance.

Section Three- Employee Support

Tennessee state civil service employees have a standard, defined, grievance procedure (http://tn.gov/dohr/employees/pdf/Employee_Handbook.pdf). Employees at the public colleges and universities do not have a consistent policy, much less standard procedures.

United Campus Workers works to defend the rights of individual workers who have grievances with the university. When going through university channels to effect change hasn’t worked, we have turned to our allies in the Tennessee General Assembly to appeal to university officials to rectify injustices.

Section Four- Complete College Act

The Tennessee Legislature passed the “Complete College Tennessee Act,” in an effort to increase the number of Tennesseans who hold post-secondary degrees. This act ties both the base funding formula and performance funding to retention and graduation rates. It acknowledges: “the demand for postsecondary is at an all-time high and public resources for the enterprise… are at an all-time low.” It asserts that “[a]n operating assumption of the 2010-2015 planning cycle is that there will be few to no new state dollars with which to pursue quality enhancements,” and further, that increases in degree productivity must be generated “with available resources… with no decrease in instructional quality.”  For further analysis of this act, read Dr. Tim Gaudin's critique at https://ucw-cwa.org/critiquing-tennessees-race-top.

Section Five- Doing More With Less 

State funding levels for our schools continue to decrease year after year, while students and their parents are asked to pay more and more just to keep funding for education constant. By July 2011, it will have been four years since higher education employees have seen a salary increase. Additionally, we are seeing community colleges like Pellissippi State move away from students being taught by instructors to more web-based instruction in core courses such as Math and English. Maintaining quality education at our institutions of higher learning demands the funding to do the job right.

We face job losses – potentially in the hundreds – when stimulus money runs out. As outlined above, quality higher education must be paid for with strong support of students, staff, and faculty at our colleges and universities. This state, its students, and its citizens simply cannot afford to have their future shortchanged.

Section Six- Outsourcing of Jobs/ Privatization

Many colleges and universities across Tennessee have privatized areas of their physical plant to private contractors who often “rehire” the displaced workers at lower pay rates, without health insurance or other benefits, and scheduled for fewer hours. In many areas there has been a decrease in the quality of work done by these contractors, including instances of U.T. Physical Plant workers having to fix work just completed by such private contractors. Additionally, many of the basic services and functions of the university, including general-education instruction, are likewise shifting away from full-time tenure-track faculty to contingent employees (“adjuncts”).