On March 9, the voices of protesters could be heard in Nashville, and they said “Tennessee is not for sale.”
Along with other concerned groups and citizens, United Campus Workers marched on the Tennessee State capital to protest facilities outsourcing.
United Campus Workers is an organization spanning most of the public colleges in Tennessee comprised of approximately 1,700 faculty, staff and students that is devoted to “stand[ing] up for the public good and for our public institutions,” according to Cassie Watters, the organization’s lead organizer.
However, protesting job outsourcing isn’t the only thing United Campus Workers has on their agenda. Slowing privatization and the right to a living wage are also big issues for the organization.
In particular, privatization has continued to become a larger issue in government and politics as time has passed, and Tennessee is no exception. Privatization, which has a lot of overlap with outsourcing, involves the transfer of businesses or services from public to private control. Sodexo being in charge of food services on ETSU’s campus is an example of this.
While privatization certainly has its benefits, such as increased efficiency driven by the need to make a profit, there are also drawbacks. Potential consequences can include employees losing their jobs, pay and benefits in a corporation’s attempt to cut costs.
“Once you get people who become ‘more expensive’ than others, there’s an incentive to get rid of them because they’re costing more, and if it’s a private company that’s the employer, their whole mission is to make a profit. It’s not to provide a public service. It’s not to provide a quality public service,” Watters explained.
To fight the spread of outsourcing, the United Campus Workers has been asking members and concerned Tennessee residents to call their legislators. Although outsourcing is an executive process that doesn’t require the legislators’ votes, Watters explained they can request economic impact studies for their districts and ask the state comptroller to investigate the process as well.
Media outreach has been another tool the organization has used in their battle.
“A lot of what we’ve done is to let the public know this was happening in the first place. When we sent the first press release, that was the first time either legislators or the media were aware that was even happening,” Watters stated.
United Campus Workers is also in the middle of growing a chapter at ETSU, with plenty of interest from students and staff, Watters said. On April 21 in Borchuck Plaza, they’ll be hosting a tongue-in-cheek event to “celebrate” the anniversary of the day adjuncts didn’t get a raise.
“I think that if students actually got more involved that it would be really great, in terms of understanding the people who work on this campus and their conditions. We say often that… campus workers’ conditions are students’ learning conditions. It affects your education, how people are treated here and around the state,” said Watters.
Interested students, faculty and staff are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org