Unions Rally At Tennessee Capitol, Say Living Wage Isn’t Lost Cause

Many of those at Tuesday's rally complained of an increasing reliance on temporary workers, including universities who refuse to bring adjunct faculty into full time roles. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Many of those at Tuesday’s rally complained of an increasing reliance on temporary workers, including universities who refuse to bring adjunct faculty into full time roles. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Unions from around the state rallied at the Tennessee capitol Tuesday in support of raising the minimum wage, despite the defeat of a minimum wage proposal last month.

“What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now,” a few hundred chanted.

Members of the UAW, Campus Workers, Fast Food Workers and the SEIU waved signs outside Gov. BIll Haslam’s office. One of the speakers is even a worker at Volkswagen who said he “couldn’t believe the lip-flapping” from Republican politicians like Haslam in opposition to union organizing.

Not only has Haslam campaigned against the UAW. In recent weeks, the state legislature shot down a one-dollar hike in the federal minimum wage. It took just a five minute discussion.

Barbara Hill is a cafeteria worker who traveled from Memphis. She takes the long view.

“If you keep on talking about a situation, and you’re seeing the people and every time you see a rally takes place and it’s getting bigger and bigger, you’ll know maybe this is a problem,” she said.

Unions in Tennessee have grown, adding 31,000 members last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That gave the state the largest rate of growth nationwide, though even union leaders are confused about how that happened.

Tennessee has experienced job growth in recent years. But union organizers point out that according to BLS numbers, many jobs are in low-wage sectors like retail and restaurants.

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