by Tyler Corbitt
While teachers in Wisconsin and Ohio fight for bargaining rights, Tennessee educators are striving for their first pay increase in four years.
Representatives and members from United Campus Workers have recently been on Pellissippi’s campus to raise awareness of the financial situation facing Tennessee’s educators. Each Wednesday for the past two weeks, UCW has set up a booth to recruit, distribute flyers and discuss issues with students and faculty alike.
Regarding the obstacles facing Tennessee’s higher educators, UCW organizer Cameron Brooks said, “There are right-wing politicians that have demagogued and demonized what people that work for the public sector do.”
“I think it’s important that the public know that we’re not overpaid, we’re in fact, underpaid compared to our private sector counterparts,” said Brooks.
One of UCW’s primary goals is to see the passage of a bill that proposes an across-the-board pay increase for faculty and support staff on Tennessee’s campuses. UCW members rallied in Nashville on Mar. 15, in part, to support the bill.
The bill, HB1707/SB1588 was proposed by State Sen. Beverly Marrero and Rep. Mike Turner, and would grant a $2000 across-the-board increase to each full-time employee of UT and TBR (Tennessee Board of Regents).
Additionally, in his budget proposal, Governor Bill Haslam allows for a 1.6 percent pay increase for state employees and teachers.
One UCW member said that the problem with the 1.6 percent increase is that it can translate to a mere $12 in take home pay for some workers.
“Even if the bill [HB1707] doesn’t pass, we might get something better than 1.6 percent,” said Brooks, “It’s something that people can work for.”
According to Brooks, there are over 1,200 UCW members in Tennessee and close to 50 union members on Pellissippi’s campus.