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Cameron Brooks, Presente!

Cameron Brooks passed last week, on Friday Sept. 1, due to sepsis induced by treatments he was undergoing for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. We write and share this with you to honor his memory.

We both met Cameron when he was a student activist at UTK; he was a student of Jon’s and began working with Tom soon after the Labor Teach-In Cameron co-organized at UTK in 2002. With the connections he made at that Teach-In, and the local network built during the Living Wage Campaign, Cameron co-founded United Campus Workers, which became affiliated with Communication Workers of America in early 2004.

Cameron worked tirelessly to build our union. After he graduated from UTK with degrees in Political Science and Sociology, Cameron took a position in the Social Work Office of Research & Public Service, as a way to organize the UCW. “In 2003, Cameron was hired as UCW’s first organizer, and for the next ten years led efforts to grow the membership from 18 to over 1000 members across Tennessee. Cameron’s leadership helped to win many victories for poorly paid campus workers in the process” (Cameron Brooks for City Council website).  

We remember those years well. Cameron, satchel slung over his shoulder, walking countless miles criss-crossing the UTK campus, spreading the message that campus workers can win if we Organize and Unionize. Cameron used his political contacts to begin the first meetings with our local legislators; we traveled together to other universities to help build the union; and he was key to building the union at UT Chattanooga, Pellissippi State, Northeast State, and East Tennessee State University, among the many locales that UCW now builds power.

After Cameron left that key organizing position, he joined the CWA Organizing team based in Washington, D.C. But after a few years working for the national union he felt called back home to Tennessee. He continued to serve both the public and social justice though his positions in the Tennessee State Democratic Executive Committee and as chair of the Knox County Democratic Party. Cameron also served on the Knox County Election Commission.  

His recent run for Knoxville City Council resulted in a close second-place finish, and he was readying his campaign for the run-off when he passed. United Campus Workers endorsed this run as a clear recognition of Cameron’s past and planned future as a public servant who listened well, acted pragmatically and courageously, and kept the needs of Knoxville and Tennessee foremost in his heart and mind.

We miss Cameron and grieve his passing. Cameron touched so many people and made countless lives better. He was a great animal lover, a person of faith, and a loving family man. We join his husband Wes Knott, his mother Jane Brooks, father John Brooks, and brother Aaron Brooks in their grief. UCW Tennessee simply would not have been the powerful, vigorous organization it is now without Cameron Brooks. Thank you, Cameron.

In Solidarity,

Tom Anderson and Jon Shefner, UCW UTK