UT Martin Rescinds Illegal Anti-union Work Rules After UCW Complaint

An email sent Wednesday, February 17, 2010 titled “Urgent That You Use Current UT Personnel Policies” from Vice Chancellor Al Hooten and Human Resources Director Phil Bright rescinded all printed personnel policies and work rules, and directed supervisors to only use those policies and procedures found on the UT website. Copies of the email are being distributed to all UTM Housing employees. This email comes a week after representatives from United Campus Workers – Communications Workers of America, Tennessee’s higher education union, which represents over 1,000 UT and TBR employees across the state, met with State Representative Mike Turner to discuss measures that would eliminate illegal anti-union work rules which had been distributed to employees in the UTM Department of Housing.

“This is a huge victory that would not have happened had it not been for the union,” says Tim Hacker, UTM English Instructor and UCW-CWA Executive Board Member-At-Large. “By standing together, we were able to accomplish something that we would not have been able to do as individuals. This shows why all UTM staff and faculty should join UCW-CWA. I hope they’ll consider it.”

When the policy was first brought to the UCW’s attention late last year, union members consulted with legal staff and began drafting a letter to UT administration to see the policy changed. A delegation of union leaders and community supporters including the Vice Mayor of the City of Knoxville delivered the letter to UT President Jan Simek in mid-January. The letter requested that the policy be rescinded, a formal apology be issued by UTM Housing Director Earl Wright, and other issues in the department concerning working conditions, pay and opportunities for career advancement be addressed. Legal staff from the Communications Workers of America, UCW's parent union, communicated directly with UT's lawyers, and union members finally appealed to the state legislature for redress.

“Today’s actions on the part of UTM administration are a much needed first step, and most importantly it shows that average employees have the power to improve issues at work through the strength they gain by joining the union,” explains Tom Smith, UCW-CWA Organizer. “But employees in the Department of Housing, Physical Plant and all across campus are still being paid poverty wages; staff must be compensated for their overtime at time-and-a-half pay and not simply be given comp time; and Earl Wright, the Director of Housing, still must issue a formal apology for his and Terry Boyd’s so egregiously violating these folks' rights under the First Amendment and the Tennessee Constitution.”