The call for lawmakers to FUND OUR FUTURE has been delivered

petitionlogo_petitionsAUSTIN, TX – On Wednesday, April 24th, a delegation of TSEU activists were at the Capitol as part of a statewide University Day of Action in which TSEU members from around the state made calls to Texas lawmakers urging them to restore funding for higher education, oppose the privatization of our public universities, and include university employees in an across-the-board state employee pay raise.    The TSEU delegation was delivering this message in the form of a petition which TSEU activists had been circulating on college campuses and in communities throughout the state for more than 18 months.  The Fund Our Future petition drive was a direct response by the TSEU University Caucus to the devastating cuts made to higher education funding during the 82nd legislative session in 2011.   At public universities across the state, TSEU activists collected signatures and engaged fellow citizens in the democratic process.  Last Wednesday, TSEU assembled a delegation to deliver the Fund Our Future petition to the Committees on Higher Education and to key legislators involved in the budget process with the intention that it should be entered into the public record.  With close to 4000 hand collected signatures and another 500 collected online, the TSEU delegation arrived at the Texas State Capitol around 11:30 am to give a public statement on the south steps before heading inside to deliver the petition to lawmakers.  Anne Lewis, TSEU Executive Board member and UT – Austin activist gave TSEU’s public remarks:

We are a delegation of Texas State Employees Union workers who have come to the Capitol today to register more than 4000 hand gathered and hand signed petitions from Texas citizens.  We’re going to register these with the House and Senate Committees on Higher Education.  We ask that the petitions immediately be entered into the public record.  In addition, we will deliver stacks to the Appropriations Committees. 

The Petition calls on state legislators to restore all of the 2011 cuts to higher education funding and to further the education of all Texans by increasing funding of public education. The devastating cuts from last session have resulted in layoffs, downsizing, and privatization schemes that attempt to hide the failure of the legislature to develop the revenue streams necessary to sustain education in a state the size of Texas. 

TSEU calls for inclusion of university employees in an across-the-board, flat amount pay raise with no cuts to health care and pension benefits.  University workers have not had a state legislated pay raise in over 10 years since the passage of SB 1652 in 2003 which made all pay raises for university workers dependent on a so-called merit system which creates even greater income disparities among workers.  As a result, university workers are some of the lowest paid state workers.

As an instructional worker at the University of Texas – Austin and an elected member of the executive board of TSEU, I want to stress several deep concerns.

The first is the Accenture driven Business Productivity Initiative at our university with an estimated 25% downsizing of staff; privatization of custodial workers and food service workers; sale of student housing, food services, and parking with increases for students to commercial rates; and commercialization of research.  We believe that community input is badly needed before any of these changes proposed by Accenture and other outsourcing and privatization corporations are implemented.  The Legislature should stand with us in this demand.

Second, we are deeply concerned about the proposed changes to our TRS pensions.  These changes increase employee contributions.  They raise the age of retirement with full benefits. Those pensions and benefits are vital to the health and very existence of thousands of Texans now and in the future.  We stand united in opposition to austerity.

Finally the Legislature must understand the depth of our union’s commitment to public higher education and to university workers, which includes the whole university community from students to faculty to lab technical staff, groundskeepers, custodial workers, and librarians.   We will be here over and over again until this legislature fulfills the mandates of the State Constitution: “The Legislature shall establish, organize and provide for the maintenance, support and direction of a university of the first class.”  It’s time to stop the attacks on public higher education and the assault on workers at our public universities.

Upon entering the Capitol, the TSEU delegation delivered the Fund Our Future petition to the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education via Chairman Dan Branch’s staff.  After delivering the petition at Chairman Branch’s office, the TSEU delegation delivered the petition at the office of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.  Letters accompanying the petition to Chairman Dan Branch and Chairman Kel Seliger urged them to carefully consider entering the Fund Our Future petition into the public record.  Next, the TSEU delegation split into two teams and delivered the petition to lawmakers involved in the state budget process.  In all, 20 more copies of the Fund Our Future petition were delivered to legislators who are serving on the Budget Conference Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee.

What to do next?

  1. Sign Up a Co-Worker– In order to keep pressure on lawmakers to use some of the billions of dollars in available revenue to make an investment in higher education, it is imperative that the organized voice of university workers continues to grow.  A great time to begin will be this Wednesday, May 1st [International Workers’ Day] which is an “Each One, Reach One” day of action to build the strength of the union. CLICK HERE to download a membership form
  2. Join COPE– University Caucus members need to continue to build our political muscle in order to strengthen our voice in the legislature. TSEU’s Committee on Political Education is a powerful tool that can generate political will in Austin to make investments in public higher education a high priority. CLICK HERE to download a COPE membership form
  3. Continue to Share the FUND OUR FUTURE Petition Online– The TSEU university caucus is committed to reaching our goal of 1000 online signatures before the end of the 83rd legislative session.  Continuing to share the Fund Our Future petition via email and social media to generate more signatures will keep sustained pressure on lawmakers and make a difference in higher education funding talks during the Budget Conference Committee.  CLICK HERE to link to and sign the petition online.