Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stimulus Saves Jobs, Tennessee Higher Education

Thanks in part to pressure applied by the United Campus Workers (a union of University of Tennessee employees), Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is using the state's share of stimulus money to eliminate all planned cuts in higher education. This not only saves hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs, but also goes a long way to ensuring decent education for Tennessee's citizens.

This is a great example both of how Obama's stimulus plan is making positive improvements in the country and of the necessity of unions as a force for good in public life. As the union itself said in a press release:

Since last fall UCW-CWA has been clear: the Governor must use any available federal assistance, the rainy day fund and other available resources as a bridge to better economic times instead of implementing the steep budget cuts proposed for higher education. During a time of economic recession the state's public colleges and universities are the last place we should look to for budget reductions. Instead, higher education is one of the best job creation programs our state has; public higher education is an economic engine that benefits all residents of Tennessee.

While many of our colleagues enjoyed the winter break, our members actively reached out to the Tennessee Congressional delegation asking for federal aid for higher education. During the week of Christmas our leadership continued to plan our legislative campaign. While many around us descended into hopelessness and the ere of inevitability, our members rallied in support of federal aid and pressured Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with its State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. When many talked of pink slips soon to be arriving in the mailboxes of campus employees we, at points by ourselves, boldly spoke up that these cuts would not have to take place now given the aid on its way to states. Our members spent Spring Breaks lobbying our elected leaders in Nashville, many of them using their annual leave in order to attend.

Last night this work finally began to come to fruition. In his Budget Address to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly Governor Bredesen announced that due to the federal economic stimulus bill's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund higher education, "not only won't have to make cuts [this year], but cuts they have already taken here in Tennessee have been restored."

It is important that our coworkers, our colleagues, and our communities know that these sorts of developments do not simply drop from the sky. Average people can make positive change in our own lives, these development are proof positives of this fact. The struggles to see our jobs respected and secure, higher education well funded and positioned for the future, and our state, national and world economies back on track are all far from over. But good news is always welcome news.