UT Employees Take to the Street Against Haslam’s Outsourcing Scheme
While Haslam has repeatedly urged critics of his plan to remain calm and denied any decisions have been made, WSMV Channel 5 News in Nashville discovered a pre-existing, accelerated timetable for implementation of the expected contract. Haslam evidently wants to have completed the outsourcing scheme as soon as summer of 2016.
“It looks like his mind was made up all along to sell our jobs and our public services to the lowest bidding corporation as fast as he could,” said Tom Anderson, a purchaser in UT’s Facilities Services department and whose job is part of the purview of Haslam’s effort.
United Campus Workers, the union of employees who work on Tennessee’s higher education campuses, exposed the Haslam plan to the media after a Request for Information (RFI) was released on August 11. Prior to that, there had been no public knowledge, input, or oversight of the program, which if implemented would represent the most significant reorganization of state services in decades. As the story broke, it was revealed Haslam was giving personally guided tours of state parks—which he is also attempting to privatize—to interested corporations.
Demonstrators hope to call attention to Haslam’s potential personal stake in outsourcing by locating part of their protest in front of Pilot Gas Station, the Haslam family business. Indeed two years ago, Haslam was embroiled in a scandal for his previous outsourcing push in state buildings when a no-bid contract was awarded to multinational giant JLL, in which the Governor was personally invested. Haslam is the country’s wealthiest elected politician.
“And we’re the ones who are going to lose if this happens,” worried Josh Smyser, a custodian at the university and a member of the Employees Relations Council there. “I could lose my pay, my benefits, everything, all so that some major corporation can make a profit at the taxpayer’s expense.”
Haslam, whose personal fortune tops one billion dollars, has cited his previous outsourcing efforts’ success in generating savings of some $5 million a year, but those savings average to roughly $0.75 per Tennessean—who pay the highest sales tax, including on food, in the country in a state where business taxes are among the nation’s lowest—all at the expense of people’s jobs and livelihoods.
Elizabeth Owen, a clerical worker at UT and vice-president of UCW’s Knoxville chapter, wondered: “When’s it going to stop? This is a race to the bottom for workers, all while the people on top—folks like Haslam—continue to make more money than they have ever before in history. These are our lives we’re talking about.” ###
For more information:
Tom Anderson, 865-934-7373 | Josh Smyser, 865-964-2996
Cassie Watters, UCW organizer, 617-304-1108