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.

Close to 100 people participated in the rally, and most remarked that it was an empowering and invigorating experience. While the fears of outsourcing have a tendency to discourage and divide us, acting with a united voice for workplace justice left us encouraged and united. The virtual media blackout from the major Cookeville print and radio sources struck us as a serious oversight on their part, but the student-run campus media The Oracle and WTTU continue to cover our cause in a sympathetic manner.

The trend in public higher education for decades has been to follow the failed business models of extreme privatization that have diminished professionalism and outsourced American jobs. For the faculty, many have been “outsourced” internally, where tenured professors have been replaced by temporary instructors. With United Campus Workers, we recognize the dignity of all work and honor especially the connections between colleagues whose labor is precarious and contingent or does not include basic courtesies like full-time hours, a living wage, or health/retirement benefits. The longer struggle to change the structure of our institutions would greatly benefit adjunct faculty, custodians, and other co-workers who contribute greatly to the success of our universities but do not earn their fair share.

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Tennessee Tech is more than a university; we're a family, and students, staff, and faculty all take pride in the purple and gold. The potential outsourcing of TTU custodial staff is an unwise attempt to balance the university's budget on the backs of our own brothers and sisters. Outsourcing may make immediate financial sense to the administration, but these members of our community are priceless. As we go to press, no final decision has been reached by the administration, and we continue to pressure them with emails, phone calls, letters, and public actions, raising awareness and our voices, hoping to change the outcome and reverse the decision to outsource.The moral cost of outsourcing coupled with the cost to community morale could be devastating. Faculty stand with custodians because we're all custodians: custodians of the higher good, custodians of the reputation of a TTU education, custodians of the truth.


- Andy Smith is a tenured Instructor of English at TTU and a member of UCW-CWA