October 8, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Knoxville, TN- A union of workers at state university campuses that unmasked Gov. Bill Haslam’s scheme to privatize the management and maintenance of all state property has stalled it, at least for now.
The billionaire governor began plotting in 2014 to outsource services for campuses, state parks, and more to one company—which he would select. The plan would have eliminated the jobs of more than 20% of the state’s employees, more than 10,000 workers. Tennessee’s public higher-education union, United Campus Workers (Communications Workers of America Local 3865), learned about the plan in August 2015, and launched a statewide campaign against it called “Tennessee Is Not for Sale.” On March 8, union members, students, and allies occupied a hallway outside a state Senate hearing on the scheme, unfurling rolls of paper with thousands of petition signatures and gaining support from several legislators. “We forced Republican members of the legislature to side with their constituents,” said Dalton Brown, a leader in the carpentry shop at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Haslam is still pushing outsourcing, claiming that the private contractor will rehire “qualified and productive employees” while getting rid of the unproductive, but has postponed signing the contract until early next year. Read more