The United Campus Workers of Kentucky is growing statewide, with more than 600 people signed up for the union that welcomes faculty, staff and student workers.
“I would have never imagined in a million years this thing we're doing happening because there were people before me who tried to start unions," said Dr. David Pizzo, a history professor who is helping expand a UCW chapter at Kentucky’s westernmost public university.
Pizzo and others spoke at a recent union rally outside the Curris Center on campus. He likes the idea of a union that embraces everybody who is employed at Murray – not just faculty.
He said Murray State needed a faculty-only union "like we need more holes drilled in our head...We're the most privileged category here."
Officially, UCW of Kentucky—Communication Workers of America Local 3365—the union has also gained a toehold at the University of Kentucky and UK Health Care, both in Lexington, the University of Louisville, Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond and Morehead State University. UCW members can also be found on some community college campuses.
Typically, college and university administrations aren’t union friendly. But Pizzo said the successful organization of a campus UCW chapter at UK especially gave him hope for Murray.
“We want a union because the needs of students, faculty and staff are not being met through the current organizational structure that we have here,” said Shelly Baskin, the Murray State institutional review board coordinator. “It’s been very difficult for us to take action to do what’s good for ourselves and our community.”
So far, he and more than three dozen faculty, full-time and student workers have joined the union.
While the union might not have many friends in the Murray State administration, it got a boost from the Murray State News, the student newspaper. “Without campus workers Murray State would be a shell of an institution,” wrote the news editor. Therefore, workers’ needs should be taken into account and their voices should be heard. Yet at Murray State, workers’ needs are not being met. With worker retention at jeopardy, the future of Murray State as a credible institution is not certain.
“The Murray State Chapter of the United Campus Workers of Kentucky has been working toward improving campus working conditions. Their demands include: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increasing salaries according to the cost of living adjustment (COLA), affordable healthcare, support for parents and caregivers, allowing professors to use virtual teaching formats, and respect and safety for all campus workers.”
Zeke Perkins, a former UK graduate student worker, is the UCW's lead state organizer. “We’re really excited,” he said. “We’re only two years old.”
According to its website, the union “is the wall-to-wall campus and public healthcare employees union for the Commonwealth of Kentucky representing faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate workers.”
More information about the union is available from Perkins via email at firstname.lastname@example.org His cell phone number is 845-217-4137.