August 2023: Member Update
Dear campus workers of Kentucky,
Welcome to the first of what we hope will be regular monthly updates on UCW-KY organizing efforts throughout the state. August has been an electrifying month for our union. So far, we have seen 75 workers join United Campus Workers from across the state. While it is not unprecedented to see an influx of joins at the beginning of a new academic year, this past month has been the second highest surge in new members we’ve seen since our local first chartered three and a half years ago.
Labor Unrest and a New Campaign for Compensation and Representation at UofL
Much of this influx has come from staff workers at the University of Louisville, where tensions have been high since upper administrators made a series of reckless and frustrating decisions and announcements last month. First, there was the out-of-the-blue decision to make sweeping changes to academic advising. While change is certainly needed in UofL’s advising system to address issues of low salary, unmeetable expectations, and lack of coordinated structures for training and career advancement, the proposals put forth last month solved none of these issues and faced fierce and widespread pushback from advisers, with support from numerous allied staff and faculty. On the heels of the advising announcement, UofL staff then received the profoundly disappointing results of the university’s much-publicized and long-awaited Compensation and Total Rewards Study. For years, administrators used the ongoing compensation study as an excuse for delaying or denying staff requests for raises, creating the expectation that the study would finally address systemic inequity and stagnation. Instead, despite years of research, endless deferred promises, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on private consulting firms, the study delivered little more than confusing changes in job titles and pay ranges, with most staff receiving no increase in compensation whatsoever.
In response to these events, workers have come together through UCW to launch a new campaign for compensation and representation at UofL. Yesterday, workers rallied on the campus quad to speak out against the status quo and put forth their vision for change (check out some of their media coverage by clicking here and here). Support this campaign by signing and circulating their petition at tinyurl.com/ucwky-our-cardinal-rules. If you are a worker at UofL who wants to get more active in this campaign, you can do so by contacting either Josh Boydstun (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Elise Franklin (email@example.com).
A Historic New Cohort of UK Graduate Workers
Meanwhile, at the University of Kentucky, graduate worker leaders also brought in a record number of new members for one month by canvassing and tabling at their international graduate student and teaching assistant orientations. Even though classes and teaching had not yet started, first years were already feeling the heat from rising rent costs and Lexington’s limited housing supply near campus. More than ever before, incoming graduates were fired up and ready to engage in labor organizing on campus. Overall, graduate student worker leaders brought in 30 first years in their canvassing efforts and have been hard at work getting these new recruits trained up for an upcoming Fall campaign… If you are a UK graduate student who wants to get plugged into this organizing work, reach out to Kat Copeland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Claire Hilbrecht (email@example.com).
UCW-KY Partners with KyPolicy to Build Power in the State Legislature
At the level of statewide organizing, members of our local’s Political Action Committee have partnered with KyPolicy to inform and pressure decision-makers in Frankfort on our state’s crisis of higher education worker retention and compensation. The first step in this plan is the development of a report that will detail core issues from hundreds of workers across the state as well as chronicle individual worker stories. You can contribute to this work by taking five minutes to complete our higher education workforce survey, and if you are interested in staying in the loop on UCW-CWA lobbying efforts for the next legislative session, please email our Local President, Seth Littrell, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming General Events
Other ways to stay regularly connected with your union (outside of email) include joining our Slack workspace and subscribing to the UCW-KY calendar. There are two statewide meetings already on the books for September. First, a Q&A with our Treasurer, Keegan Stewart, this Friday, September 1st at 1pm to discuss a draft copy of the 2023-2024 budget.If you have questions or comments about the budget that you want to discuss with Keegan, but cannot make this meeting time, feel free to email her directly at email@example.com.
Second, there will be a statewide general meeting on Wednesday, September 27th at 6pm on Zoom to vote on a final draft of the budget and discuss statewide organizing plans for the academic year. Register here to attend (a full agenda will be sent out to all Zoom registrants in advance of the meeting).
Lastly, if you are receiving this email and are not yet a member of our union of workers, you can become one today by signing up at ucwkentucky.org/join.
Here is to another powerful academic year of worker organizing!
UCW Officers and Organizing Staff
Seth Littrell, EKU staff worker, President
Donald Moore, UK facilities worker, Vice President
Keegan Stewart, UK healthcare worker, Treasurer
Katie Kleinkopf, UofL faculty worker, Secretary
Curtis Pomila, Local lead organizer
Sunny Cobb, Local organizer