Students and staff at UT Martin chant ‘Tennessee is not for sale’

More than 50 people gathered in front of the University of Tennessee at Martin’s administration building Tuesday.

Signs reading "Tennessee is not for sale" were aimed at the governor’s consideration to privatize the school’s maintenance workers. That includes all state maintenance workers for hospitals, state parks, prisons, and college campuses.

For campus electrician Randy Pigg it’s all about the benefits. He says he took a pay cut to work at UTM for health insurance for his family. Pigg is worried about those benefits. He thinks going private will mean fewer employees and less pay and benefits. "We’re not making that much money to begin with," Pigg said.

Bud Grimes with campus public relations says campus police would not be affected if this were to pass, but at least 100 maintenance workers could be affected. 

Amber Sherman, a student at UTM, says she’s fired up and not going to let this slide. "This is affecting the lives. These people live here. They’ll lose their jobs, and they don’t have anywhere to go. They live in Martin," she said.

Sherman says she doesn’t want a random stranger having a key to her dorm. "I should know the people who clean my room every day just like I know the person that puts in my air filters. I know the people who change my light bulb," Sherman said.

The decision could affect the school as soon as next fall. College campuses can opt-out if the plan goes through, but that decision would be made for UTM by the University of Tennessee trustees. 

Gov. Bill Haslam says the state’s facility’s management efforts so far have resulted in $12.9 million in savings and the state is exploring opportunities to privatize. There is no time frame for a decision.

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