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

In an official UT memo obtained yesterday afternoon by the union it appears that workers in that higher education system have won their campaign for a flat $1,000 raise. The United Campus Workers hopes UT will confirm this raise plan with statewide announcement to employees, and that TBR will implement similar plan to ensure pay fairness for Board of Regents employees across the state.

UCW President and full-time UTK Facilities Services employee Tom Anderson said, “The state legislature passed a budget that included funding for higher education pay increases. While we welcomed the news of any type of raise, if distributed as a percentage for most of us 1.6% is not even enough to keep up with the increased price of our monthly insurance premiums.  Both UT President DiPietro and TBR Chancellor Morgan have previously pledged a desire to do more to increase that raise pool. We are pleased to see UT President DiPietro stand by his commitment with this memo, this shows real leadership. We also need to make sure Chancellor Morgan follows through on his pledge”

The bad economy has seen many go without, adding to longstanding trends of low pay in many job classifications.  “The cost of living has increased 8.47 percent since the last raise in July 2007,” explains Paul Trogen, Associate Professor of Public Finance and union member at East Tennessee State University.  “Increases in our salaries have been zero. Governor Haslam raised the salaries of his department heads and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey raised the salaries of his staff by re-classifying their positions.  But neither the Governor nor the Legislature appear to feel that attracting and retaining faculty to teach the college students of Tennessee is important enough than to pay any more than the lowest salaries in the nation.”

After four years with no cost of living increases for most employees UCW is advocating for an equal dollar raise rather than a percentage.  “A 1.6% pay raise is great if you’re already making a good salary,” explains UCW Memphis Vice President Elect and full-time University of Memphis Custodial Services employee Thelma Jean Rimmer, “but if you’re only making $14,000 a year, it’s not even enough to cover the increased cost of food and gas, or the health insurance.  If TBR would take that same money and divide it equally among all faculty and staff, if they would follow UT’s plan it would go a long way toward bringing us up to a living wage.”

United Campus Workers – Communications Workers of America Local 3865 is Tennessee’s higher education union, with more than 1,200 members who work on 11 TBR and UT campuses across the state.