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Southwest needs adequate funding, not more layoffs
President Essex's memo announcing plans to implement another round of RIFs (Reductions in Force) during the spring semester is very concerning. UCW-CWA has already begun fighting these layoffs. Below you can read the formal Open Records Request our union sent to Southwest administrators on November 29, 2010 and their response. As we receive documents uncovered by this request we will post them to the website.
State tax collections have exceeded expectations by over $60 million since July 1, 2010. Likewise last week the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Tennessee is one of 6 states accused of bending the rules by cutting higher education budgets too deeply while taking millions in State Maintenance of Effort funding. In both cases these funds could easily prevent any budget cuts to Southwest, offset the increased health insurance costs we face and provide a significant equal-dollar pay raise to all higher education employees. Likewise recent announcements of state funding for new building projects so that we do not face questions of resources, we face questions of priorities.
UCW-CWA has a proven track record of fighting layoffs in higher education. Starting in December 2008 UTHSC employees organized to prevent 200 layoffs. Using the power of our union these workers took the fight to local and state media, organized vigils and rallies and partnered with pro-worker legislators. The fight lasted nearly 2 years, and in August 2010 when the RIFs finally took place the efforts of UTHSC union members saved nearly 170of these jobs. Additionally, this struggle won an official memo from former TBR Chancellor Charles Manning instructing TBR system presidents that workers affected by RIFs are entitled to 90 days written notice prior to termination. You can read Chancellor Manning's memo here.
This is why union membership is so important. These issues are larger than any single campus or even SWTCC itself. To be effective Southwest staff and faculty must build a voice that advocates for our interests on campus and at the State Legislature in Nashville. UCW-CWA is that voice.