Campus Workers Rally for Protections Amid Anti-Union Mood

UCW members rally on the steps of the state capitol.

UCW members rally on the steps of the state capitol.

Campus workers held a small rally outside the state capitol Wednesday. University employees are pushing for new protections, even as lawmakers have diminished the power of unions in the state.

This so-called “bill of rights” promotes a living wage and prevents the kind of outsourcing that recently occurred to Tennessee Tech’s cleaning staff.

Custodian Terri Stidham says state schools shouldn’t have the option to privatize functions just to save money.

“I’m not saying they won’t do it again, but they know they’ll have a fight on their hands.”

The state’s higher education union, United Campus Workers, has proposed nine demands. They also take aim at an over-reliance on adjunct faculty.

Warren Tormey says he started teaching English at MTSU as an adjunct faculty member in 1995.

Warren Tormey says he started teaching English at MTSU as an adjunct faculty member in 1995.

Warren Tormey has taught English at MTSU for more than 15 years. He’s still considered a temporary faculty member who could be let go at the end of each year.

Tormey estimates two-thirds of the courses in MTSU’s English Department are taught by temps or adjunct faculty. They cost less, but Tormey says they can undermine the school’s long term health.

“An adjunct instructor doesn’t have a strong investment in the larger mission of the university.”

The United Campus Workers is asking that adjunct faculty be put on a path to full-time employment.

The ultimate goal is to get this “bill of rights” written into state law, but a spokesman for the union says there’s little appetite in the state legislature right now. No lawmakers attended Wednesday’s rally.

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