The Living Wage Campaign at UT began in March 2000. UT student organization Alliance for Hope, the Knoxville Living Wage Campaign, and the AFL-CIO all joined in the effort, which at the time called for university employees to receive a minimum wage of $9.50 per hour with benefits and $11.50 per hour without benefits. In March 2000 the groups held a Labor Teach-In, a series of rallies and protests to further the campaign. Representatives met with President Gilley and other administrators, who indicated that the established channels (Student Government Association, Faculty Senate, Employee Relations Committees) should be used for examination of the issue, but that with the current levels of funding there was little chance of meeting the goals set by the group. The base pay of campus workers was raised from $8.50 an hour to $9.00 an hour on January 1, 2013, and to $9.50 an hour by June 2014. The raise was less than the 2010 Faculty Senate Living Wage Study, which recommended $12.02 per hour plus benefits.
Campus Workers for a Living Wage, the name adopted by the combined organizations for this purpose, embarked upon a campaign in April 2000 to lobby for free Hepatitis B vaccinations for all campus employees. The university agreed in June to give the vaccinations to all employees who requested them. The United Campus Workers grew out of the initial living wage impetus, and in fall 2000 the name was changed from Campus Workers for a Living Wage to United Campus Workers as the organization unionized itself—meaning that it became an independent group, not one officially working with an established union. The organization also broadened its concern to working conditions and other issues affecting staff throughout the institution. The board of trustees heard from Ernestine Robinson, a housekeeper, about the demands of the summer conference schedule and its implications for staff at its October 2000 meeting in Knoxville. In 2003 the United Campus Workers merged with the Communications Workers of America.