In recent weeks, rumors began to surface that custodial services at East Tennessee State University would be contracted out as a means of saving money. As rumors continued, outsourcing talk began to include grounds keeping and recycling duties, and other operations of the physical plant. TSEA immediately reached out to the office of ETSU’s president, Dr. Noland, and area legislators to obtain accurate information as to whether there was any truth to the rumors. Once Dr. Noland heard the rumors, he set up meetings with the custodial staff as well as the Faculty and Staff Senates, area legislators, and TSEA to discuss the matter.
On October 2, 2013, TSEA held a listening session at ETSU to hear the concerns of custodians and any other higher education employees who felt impacted by the rumors of contracting custodial positions. Government Affairs Director Sarah Adair, Field Representative Lisa Moffett, and State Senator Rusty Crowe listened to the employees and promised to assist them with their concerns.
One of the most important results of this meeting was that these employees realized the rest of the ETSU family was united with them, as the Student Government Association and the Faculty Senate demonstrated support by bringing forth resolutions against any outsourcing. After this meeting, Sarah Adair and Lisa Moffett met with Representatives Matthew Hill, Timothy Hill, and Micah Van Huss to relay the information gathered earlier that day. Employees and legislators all expressed concern over the outsourcing rumors and were eager to work with TSEA to keep these employees as members of the ETSU family.
Our legislative friends went to work: Representative Matthew Hill met with Dr. Noland, and Senator Crowe had several conversations with Dr. Noland’s senior staff. In addition, Dr. Noland set up a meeting with TSEA for October 18th. Almost immediately upon initiation of these discussions, Dr. Noland squashed all talk of outsourcing as rumored. The rumor was simply that – a rumor. It began as someone’s idea to save some money should enrollment fall below 13,500 students but there was NEVER an RFP for the work, nor did a proposal itself ever cross the university president’s desk.
Representatives David Hawk, Timothy Hill, and Micah Van Huss also attended the October 18th meeting with TSEA. Dr. Noland expressed his appreciation that TSEA brought everyone together to discuss the polarizing issue of outsourcing and the attending legislators reiterated the importance of TSEA’s participation on behalf of the employees. Sarah Adair and Lisa Moffett assured Dr. Nolan, who was apologetic over the rumors and misunderstanding, that TSEA wanted to work with ETSU and that all believed the issue was blown out of proportion by a separate group on campus trying to build a name for itself. Dr. Noland committed to working with TSEA and stated that his door was always open. TSEA took this opportunity to also discuss our legislative items involving higher education, and promised to communicate regularly on all issues to the university president and his staff.
Because of our dedicated members communicating the rumors they’d heard and their concerns with us, TSEA was able to establish a relationship with the new university president, which we hope will continue throughout his tenure, and legislators continued to stand in support of TSEA as an important player in defending the rights and well-being of state employees.