Tennessee Is Not For Sale
United Campus Workers CWA Local 3865 activists and allies flooded the Tennessee State Capitol last Tuesday to protest Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's scheme to outsource all facilities maintenance, management, and security at state colleges and universities.
As the Haslam administration delivered a "business justification" presentation to lawmakers – claiming that privatization would save the state money – protesters lined the hallway outside and unfurled three scrolls listing more than 5,000 people who had signed a petition against outsourcing. Chants of "Tennessee is not for sale!" and "Governor Haslam step off it, put people over profit!" rang up and down Legislative Plaza.
Campus physical plant and maintenance staff, faculty, clerical and administrative worker members had the support of nearly 200 allies, which included CWA Local 3805 President Ray Mehaffey, students, clergy, community activists, ATU, SEIU Local 205, the UT Diversity Matters Coalition, the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, fast food and homecare workers fighting for $15, and more.
As the rally ended, many protesters returned to the legislative hearing, packing the room with red UCW-CWA shirts. Workers showed that they weren't fooled by the empty promises of out-of-touch politicians. They know that outsourcing would certainly lead to job cuts, smaller salaries, slashed benefits, higher turnover and degraded services. They understand that privatization often does not result in big savings for the government, as hidden fees and cost overages and more add up.
But UCW-CWA members were not the only ones at the hearing to see the holes in Haslam's scheme. Knoxville State Sen. Richard Briggs, whose district includes the University of Tennessee, raised questions about the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of privatization.
"We need to search for savings, but we don't need to change for the sake of change at the expense of our hardworking citizens and the small businesses in our community," Briggs said to applause. "If the university is running an efficient operation, we need to keep it."
He added, "To date, I've not received any complaints from anyone about the quality of operations or the maintenance of the services. On the contrary, I hear nothing but compliments. And in private conversations with senior UT officials and administrators they also have expressed concerns that special events such as football games, conferences and snow days will not be adequately covered or covered at a great expense."
UCW-CWA members also met with their state representatives and senators before boarding buses, vans and cars to head home.
Workers are moving the needle. UCW-CWA has been turning the seemingly impossible into reality ever since those first campus workers came together 16 years ago to demand a voice on the job. Forward together, not one step back!
UCW Local 3805 members rally outside the state Capitol in Nashville before heading inside to convince lawmakers to oppose Governor Haslam's outsourcing scheme and to roll out the more than 5,000 signatures of citizens opposed to outsourcing of critical public services.