Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Arkansas Worker Killed on Job

A Blytheville man has died after the tire he tried to fix at work exploded, causing massive injuries to his head.

Mississippi County Coroner Mike Godsey said Christopher Herron, 19, was plugging the tire on a scrap-hauling dump truck Sunday at Kinder Morgan in Hickman. Godsey said the 6-foot-tall tire exploded, knocking Herron 16 feet backward.

Kinder Morgan, formerly Marine Terminals of Arkansas, stores and ships dry bulk and liquid products, including scrap steel. Company officials did not return calls for comment.

This was the second industrial death to strike Mississippi County in recent days. On Friday, Brandon Johnson, 30, of Caruthersville, Mo., was crushed to death while working at Gibbons Steel.

"An Injury to One Is an Injury to All."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Worked Crushed to Death

Brandon Johnson, 30, was crushed to death this morning at the non-union Gibbons Steel steel-processing plant at Armorel in Northeast Arkansas.

A Mississippi County Sheriff's Office report said Johnson was working at a table that holds large steel coils weighing approximately 3,000 pounds. The report said the table, which was tilted up, apparently fell on Johnson shortly before 7:45 a.m., pinning the lower half of his body to the floor. Fellow workers got a forklift, removed the table from Johnson and began first-aid procedures. Johnson was taken to Great River Medical Center at nearby Blytheville, where he was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m.

Decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in working conditions, but the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths remains enormous. In 2005, 4.2 million workers were injured and 5,734 workers were killed due to job hazards. Another 50,000-60,000 died due to occupational diseases. For additional information about workplace injuries and fatalities, download Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.

"An Injury to One Is an Injury to All."

Krugman on State of the Unions

The Benton County Daily Record has an op-ed piece today by Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman on why unions are important for a strong middle class in this country. You can read the full article here, but below is an excerpt.

"Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement.

"These two facts were connected. Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. Unions also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite.

"Today, however, the American union movement is a shadow of its former self, except among government workers. In 1973, almost a quarter of private-sector employees were union members, but last year the figure was down to a mere 7. 4 percent.

"Yet unions still matter politically. And right now they’re at the heart of a nasty political scuffle among Democrats. Before I get to that, however, let’s talk about what happened to American labor over the last 35 years.

"It’s often assumed that the U. S. labor movement died a natural death, that it was made obsolete by globalization and technological change. But what really happened is that beginning in the 1970 s, corporate America, which had previously had a largely cooperative relationship with unions, in effect declared war on organized labor.

"Don’t take my word for it; read Business Week, which published an article in 2002 titled “ How Wal-Mart Keeps Unions at Bay. ” It described the tactics — some legal, some illegal, all involving a healthy dose of intimidation — that Wal-Mart and other giant firms use to block organizing drives.

"These hardball tactics have been enabled by a political environment that has been deeply hostile to organized labor, both because politicians favored employers’ interests and because conservatives sought to weaken the Democratic Party.

"But the times may be changing. A newly energized progressive movement seems to be on the ascendant, and unions are a key part of that movement. Most notably, the Service Employees International Union has played a key role in pushing for health-care reform. And unions will be an important force in the Democrats’ favor in next year’s election." [read more]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

December 26, 1945. Walter Ted Campbell, a member ofLocal No. 98, Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America (C. I. O.) on strike against the SouthernCotton Oil Company in Little Rock, was killed by Otha Williams, a white non-union scab who crossed the picket line at the plant on East Ninth Street.

Later, Otha Willams was acquitted of murder, but Roy Cole, Louis Jones, and Jesse Bean -- three black union members who had been on the picket line with Walter Campbell -- were convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to a year in prison for a
threat of the use of force or violence to prevent Otha Williams from engaging in a lawful vocation.

Monday, December 24, 2007

UA Exceeds United Way Goal

Thanks to the generous contributions of staff and faculty and the fundraising efforts of students, the University of Arkansas raised more than $170,000 for the United Way of Northwest Arkansas during its campus-wide campaign for 2007, surpassing the university's goal of $145,000 by more than $25,000. This is the largest amount ever raised by University of Arkansas employees for the United Way.

Among the 78 agencies that benefit annually from the United Way are the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Ozark Food Bank, Ozark Literacy Council, Legal Aid of Northwest Arkansas, Community Clinic at St. Francis House, Headstart, EOA Children's House, and the Peace at Home Family Shelter. While the demand for basic human services from these agencies is even greated this year, the same economic conditions that create greater needs have also reduced the ability of working families to contribute to the United Way.

UA employees are to be commended for their record generosity this year, and AFSCME Local 965 is proud to again have been a part of that effort. Overall contributions to the new United Way of Northwest Arkansas are more than $1 million below the goal for 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

December 22, 1949. More than 600 coal miners from up and down the Arkansas River valley threw a picket ring around the Ozark Valley-Philpott Coal Co. strip mine, eight miles north of Ozark

December 22, 1958. Arkansas Supreme Court rules in Potts v. Hay that Act 30 of 1957, prohibiting employment of police officers who join a union, is unconstitutional under Amendment 34

December 22, 2006. United Auto Workers Local 1000 filed complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accused Kohler Sink of Searcy of making non-negotiated changes to working conditions and negotiating in bad faith

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Peace at Home this Christmas

Living in unfamiliar surroundings to escape domestic violence is difficult for everyone, but it can be especially troubling for young children. AFSCME Local 965's project this year is to help bring joy to the children who will be spending the holidays at the Peace at Home shelter.

Sister Theresa Sims will be coordinating our efforts to collect funds and buy presents for the children under 10 years of age living at Peace at Home. Please help make Christmas a little more pleasant for these kids by donating $5.00, $10.00, $20.00 or any amount you can afford.

You can mail your check to AFSCME Local 965, P.O. Box 2459, Fayetteville, AR 72702 or give it to Theresa Sims or Bruce McNully by Thursday, December 20th. Theresa will do all the shopping, and anyone who would like to help is welcome to come along. Contact her by email at

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


ACT 1415 of 2007 Abolishes Workers Comp Second Injury Fund

January 1, 2008 a major change in the Arkansas Workers' Compensation law instigated by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce goes into effect.
You will not be able to file a claim against the Second Injury Trust Fund after December 31, 2007.

If you have been involved in a job related accident and as a result you have, or expect to have, a permanent injury, the change in the law may seriously affect your rights if you already had a permanent injury or permanent health condition that existed before your most recent job related injury.

For specific information, you should contact the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission and ask to speak with a legal advisor and ask about the change that goes in effect on January 1, 2008 regarding Second Injury Fund claims. The Little Rock telephone numbers are: (800) 622-4472 or (501) 682-3930. The Fort Smith telephone numbers are: (800) 354-2711 or (479) 783-7970. The Springdale telephone numbers are: (800) 852-5376 or (479) 751-2790.

You may also obtain information by contacting a private attorney who is knowledgeable of Arkansas Workers' Compensation law. There should be no charge for such a consultation.

AFSCME Local 965 wishes to express our sincere thanks to State Representatives Jim House and Lindsley Smith who voted against this anti-worker legislation to abolish the Second Injury Fund.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

AAUW Congressional Scorecard

The American Association for University Women promotes higher education and advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. They have released their Congresssinal Scorecard that shows how Arkansas's Senators and Congressmen voted on the Association’s federal legislative priorities.

AAUW members have a long history of lobbying Congress and holding their legislators accountable for how they vote on AAUW priority issues. The specific legislation included in this voting record for the First Session of the 109th Congress provides information about how senators and representatives voted on AAUW’s issues including education, reproductive rights, tax and budget, civil rights, and welfare reform.

Complete information on issues and votes for the 109th Congress (2005-2006) is available here. Ratings for the members from Arkansas are:

Vic Snyder (D-AR2) 100%
Mark Pryor (D-AR) 80%
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) 70%
Mike Ross (D-AR4) 70%
Marion Berry (D-AR1) 60%
John Boozman (R-AR3) 30%

Friday, December 7, 2007

International Human Rights Day

Monday, December 10, is International Human Rights Day—the day commemorating the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The declaration states, “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

Unfortunately, here in the United States this fundamental human right is under attack.

When you look at what employers are permitted to do, and when you look at what the Bush administration's Labor Board has done to roll back workers' rights, it is clear that workers in America don’t have freedom to protect their own interests.

The freedom to form a union to bargain for a better life is an internationally recognized human right, but workers in America are denied that right each and every day. The University of Arkansas does not have to engage in collective bargaining with employees, and some UA administrators even refuse to meet and discuss work issues with employees when union officers are present.

Click here to tell your senators to fight to restore these rights and pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

As a nation, we’re not keeping our end of the bargain to workers—not by anyone’s standards.

Human Rights Watch, an internationally recognized watchdog organization, studied what happens to workers in the United States who try to form unions. The group found we’ve got a fundamental human rights issue on our hands. And the International Labor Organization has said the United States is out of compliance with internationally recognized workers’ rights standards.

This week, hundreds of the world’s labor leaders are gathering in Washington, D.C., at the first-ever global organizing forum addressing this very issue—how to uphold workers’ rights to form unions worldwide, including right here in the United States.

Our system has to be changed to give all working people the freedom to make their own choice about whether to have a union and bargain for better wages and benefits.

The Employee Free Choice Act would do just that.

This year, we have seen amazing progress on the bill. In March, it sailed through the U.S. House; in May, it garnered majority support in the U.S. Senate.

Our elected leadership is starting to get it. No single piece of legislation will do more to lift the middle class and create the America that everyone deserves.

The campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act won’t end until we have restored to U.S. workers the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively for a better life. The fight is on, and we will keep going until we win.

Click here to remind your senators: Working families need the Employee Free Choice Act.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

New Strategies for Women Union Leaders

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) issued a report this week outlining strategies for unions to use in promoting women's voices and leadership. "Unions are good for women workers, but they could be much better at promoting women into leadership positions," said Amy Caiazza, Director of Democracy and Society Programs at IWPR and the report's author. "The strategies outlined in this report are designed to help women claim a voice of authority in an area that is traditionally dominated by men."

Women experience a wide range of obstacles to their union-based activism, according to the report titled I Knew I Could Do This Work. Among them are women's lack of visibility in leadership; the fear of retribution as a result of union activism; discomfort with conflict and public roles; neglected priorities of women workers; the time demands of union work; bias within unions; and lack of awareness of what unions do.

The report, which is based on interviews with women who are union activists, outlines seven strategies to promote women's leadership:

1. Address Women's True Priorities: If unions more visibly address women's concerns, they are more likely to inspire their long-term, active involvement.

2. Create and Support Formal Mentoring Programs: While a good deal of mentoring occurs informally, it could be more intentionally incorporated into union organizing as a source of ongoing support.

3. Provide Opportunities for Women to Strategize Together: Unions can cultivate women-specific training programs, conferences, women's committees, and networks at the local, regional, and national levels.

4. Put Women in Leadership: Placing women in visible local and national leadership roles provides role models and articulates respect for their authority.

5. Highlight the Importance of Women's Contributions: Unions can provide examples of women's current and past union leadership as models for what union women can accomplish.

6. Provide Flexible Options for Involvement: To accommodate the conflicting demands of women's lives, unions can offer creative opportunities to get involved.

7. Provide Training on Mobilizing Women: Unions can train their leaders and organizers on strategies that effectively inspire women's activism and promote their leadership.

"In the end, the strategies in this report are all designed to empower women's activism in public life, within unions and beyond," said Dr. Caiazza. "By claiming leadership, women can transform their lives, their workplaces, and their communities."

I Knew I Could Do This Work was written and published with support from the Berger-Marks Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

To obtain a copy of these reports or to schedule an interview, please contact Elisabeth Crum at 202-785- 5100, ext. 24, or

The Institute for Women's Policy Research conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. IWPR focuses on issues of poverty and welfare, employment and earnings, work and family, health and safety, and women's civic and political participation.

The Berger Marks Foundation ( seeks to bring the benefits of unionization to working women and to assist organizations committed to those principles. The goal is to provide financial assistance to women who are engaged in union organizing and to assist working women who want to organize other women into unions through training, research and other resources.

The Ford Foundation ( is a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide. The Foundation seeks to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.

Institute for Women's Policy Research
Elisabeth Crum
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
phone: 202-785-5100

Friday, November 30, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 30, 1999. AFSCME Local 965 protests 10% hike in health insurance costs and challenges University of Arkansas administrators to try living on worker wages for just two weeks. Challenge is not accepted.

November 30, 2006. Express Forestry Inc. of Leslie and officers, Rick and Sandy Thomas, agree to pay $220,000 to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project for unpaid wages to Guatemalan guest workers hired to plant trees.

Carpenters Union Opens NWA Office

AFSCME Local 965 welcomes the Arkansas Regional Council of Carpenters, which once again has a home in Northwest Arkansas. The union has opened a 1,500-square-foot office and 3,500-square-foot training center at 5375 Hailey Avenue in Springdale, to better serve the area, where it anticipates more jobs to fill.

“The only challenge we have is finding enough people to man the jobs that we have,” said Dennis Donahou, executive secretery-treasurer. He said that the office will help serve the 100 or so members in the area and will offer a place to train people interested in joining the union. Union members in the area are working primarily on commercial projects, such as the baseball stadium in Springdale and the new hospital in Rogers. He said that he anticipates the need for well-trained carpenters will continue to increase in the area, and the union will provide a means of developing them.

People interested in joining the union can stop by the office and talk to a business representative and file an application. “We’ll put you out to work as quick as we can,” Donahou said. People with experience will be sent out to jobs at the level they’re capable of, while people with no experience will be able to enter an apprenticeship program. He said that the goal is to bring apprentices and unskilled laborers up to speed as journeyman carpenters as quickly as possible, because there is a market for the type of skilled craftsman that can be found in the union ranks. “We bring a well-trained and better-paid work force,” he said.

The Regional Council represents more than 2, 000 professional carpenters and millwrights in the two states, and is backed by a $ 100 million annual training budget of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, which helps facilitate training centers throughout the coverage area of Local 71.

For more information about the council, go to, or contact the local office at 717-2437.

Thanks to the Northwest Arkansas Times for covering an important story about the opening of a union office and providing information about job opportunities for skilled union labor in Northwest Arkansas. It is a welcome development.

Health Care Costs Hurting Working Families

Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, released a report that shows that more than 680,000 people in Arkansas under the age of 65 will spend more than 10% of their pre-tax income on health care costs next year. It also projected that 220,000 people will spend more than 25% of their income on health care, and most of those people have health insurance.

“It’s having a dramatic impact on them, on the economy and the quality of life we want people in Arkansas to have,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). Programs like ARKids First, supported by the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Fund) help working families have greater access to health care, particularly for children, and it’s important to keep funding them, Lincoln said.

A proposal recently passed by Congress and supported by all Democratic members from Arkansas to reauthorize and expand SCHIP from an average of $5 billion a year to approximately $12 billion yearly over the next five years was vetoed by President Bush. Our own Rep. John Boozman (R-AR3) voted against funding children's health care and supported the Bush veto.

Rep. Marion Berry ( D-AR1) said the figures in the report are disturbing. “The good news is, we pretty well know how to fix this and I think we can fix this,” he said. “It may take a new Congress and new president, and we’re going to get that.”

Rhonda Sanders, director of health policy and legislative affairs for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the report echoes what the agency is hearing every day from families struggling to afford health care. “Getting the SCHIP reauthorization through is a critical piece in funding health care for children,” she said. “I do think Arkansas has opportunities to increase the availability of great programs like ARKids First,” she said. “There are 70,000 children with no health care coverage."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

AFSCME Local 965 wishes you and yours a warm and safe Thanksgiving holiday. We are grateful for our members and for all the friends of working families in our community.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Protest Rally Tuesday Against NLRB

On November 20th at 3:00 p.m., after the Labor 2008 Coordinators meeting in Little Rock, we are requesting that everyone join us in a protest at the regional Labor Board office, saying the Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has abandoned its mission of protecting workers’ rights, and instead is catering to corporations. The protestors will point to a recent downpour of 61 unexpected rulings in September, saying the majority of the decisions roll back workers’ rights. They will call for the Labor Board to be closed until it is more balanced. Similar actions are happening in 13 cities nationwide, including at the NLRB headquarters in Washington, DC.

“It’s time the National Labor Relations Board is closed for renovation. Working men and women are gathering at Board offices across the nation today to say the Board should shut down until we can be assured that there is a measured, fair-minded National Labor Relations Board in place to protect worker’s rights,” said Jim Nickels of Arkansas AFSCME Council 38.

Some of the recent decisions make it harder for workers to form a union through majority sign up, make it harder for workers who are illegally fired to recover back pay, and make it easier for employers to discriminate against union organizers.

The November 20th event in Little Rock is part of a nationwide week of action to raise awareness about the decisions and the threat to workers’ freedom to form and join unions. Events will take place in 13 cities with thousands of workers participating across the country.

Who: Workers, community leaders and members
What: Regional Labor Relations Board office
When: November 20th, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: 425 West Capitol Ave., Suite 1615
Little Rock , AR 72201-3489

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 14, 1966. Arkansas Supreme Court holds University of Arkansas cannot be sued for violation of state labor law on behalf of 68 women workers at University Food Service who were required to work in excess of 8 hours/day without overtime pay. In August 1965 Bill Laney, as Commissioner of Labor of the State of Arkansas, had filed the suit against the UA Board of Trustees for violation of the wage and hour laws enacted to protect workers, but the University argued that it was immune from lawsuits in state courts.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 5, 1905. Birthdate of Theodore McNeal at Helena, Arkansas. Vice President of International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Our Presidential Endorsement

Yesterday, our union announced its support of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for President of the United States.

AFSCME's International Executive Board overwhelmingly voted to endorse Senator Clinton following an extensive 10-month, member-driven endorsement processincluding candidate appearances, interviews and membership polls. These polls showed that Senator Clinton enjoys deeps support among AFSCME's members. We looked for the candidate who will fight the hardest for working families and who has the greatest ability to win -- and the candidate who will motivate our members to make more calls, knock on more doors and talk to their co-workers like never before. We believe Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for our members and for America.

We had the most talented and diverse field of Presidential candidates we've seen in years. But when all was said and done, among our members Hillary Clinton clearly emerged as the best candidate to take back the White House for America's working families.

When Senator Clinton accepted our endorsement yesterday, she made it profoundly clear that she understands the importance of the work AFSCME members do day in and day out and committed to stopping the attacks on public services that our entire nation has suffered from under the Bush administration. This is what she said:

"I'm going to start reversing the outsourcing of our government...There are now more private contractors being paid with our tax dollars than there are civilian and military employees combined...We’re going to begin to take our government back and put it back in the hands of the American people for a change."

No matter how you look at it, Hillary Clinton stands out. She stands tall. And she stands with us. As our President, Hillary Clinton will help rebuild America's middle class and make sure that everyone shares in our country's prosperity. Now it's up to us to help make that happen.

AFSCME takes pride in being the most effective political force in the American labor movement. AFSCME members are more than just voters. You are messengers and activists, comprising a powerful grassroots network of volunteers and opinion leaders. When inspired by candidates who stand strongly for working families, AFSCME members can make the difference in close elections.

In 2008, it is our goal to double our volunteer army. Together, we will elect Sen. Clinton, increase the Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House, and influence key gubernatorial contests, state legislative races and ballot initiatives. I hope that each and every one of you will be a part of this historic effort.

You can take the first step by signing up to volunteer. Just go to our special volunteer sign up form and someone from our Political Action department will be in touch with you. Click here to volunteer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 31, 1919 Little Rock attorney O.G. Bratton indicted for barratry in Helena for attempting to provide legal defense for “insolent" African-American cotton pickers and sawmill hands who were members of the Progressive Farmers' and Household Union; he was held thirty-one days without bond in Phillips County jail and then released without trial.

October 31, 1910 Arkansas Supreme Court reverses judgment for Idus Moore against the Western Coal & Mining Company for injuries sustained by him from falling rock in the defendant's Crawford County coal mine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CWA Local 6171 Rally on November 10

RALLY for Communications Workers of America Local 6171 in Support of Contract Negotiations with CenturyTel in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Saturday, November 10 at11:00 A.M., 600 West Main (the vacant lot between Wendy's and the bank).

Please show your support for our fellow union sisters and brothers in Arkansas and come out and have lunch with CWA Local 6171. CWA members will provide free hotdogs, chips, and sodas for everyone.

Contact Numbers:
Linda James, Secretary/Treasurer – (214-957-6068 – CWA Cell)
Milton T. Grant, Jr., EVP – (972-951-0763 – CWA Cell)
(940-482-7212 – Local 6171 Office)

Nurses Need Your Help

More than 800 nurses at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) hospitals are fighting for the communities they serve—even as ARH tries to crush their spirit through intimidation and threats. They have been without paychecks since October 1st.

Legendary labor leader John L. Lewis started these hospitals to help sick miners. Now, the ARH nurses—members of the United American Nurses in Kentucky and West Virginia—are on strike because their managers’ policies are endangering patient care.

Click here to make a donation to the ARH nurses.

The ARH nurses have shown their commitment to their patients time and time again. They are putting their jobs on the line in support of safe staffing levels. And they’ve gone more than three weeks without pay.

One nurse explained why they’re striking:

We’re being asked to do impossible tasks, to be responsible for too many patients. Some days we have as many as 12 patients to care for. That’s too much for one person to do without making a mistake. I tell my husband who is a retired teacher that if he makes a mistake, he can just erase the board. If a nurse makes a mistake, it could erase someone off the earth.

Patient care must be any hospital’s primary concern. By forcing its front-line care providers to be understaffed and overworked, ARH is recklessly putting its patients at risk.

The nurses at ARH deserve respect and decent working conditions that include fair pay and benefits as well as manageable hours.

Again, please consider making a donation to the ARH nurses by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chamber President Blames American Workers for Wanting Good Paying Jobs

United States Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue attacked labor unions in a speech today at the 79th annual meeting of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas in Little Rock. "They want to re-unionize our economy," Donohue said. Combating the union agenda is important because labor wants to change corporate policy on outsourcing, layoffs, health coverage and environmentalism, all of which would be bad for business, he told Arkansas Chamber officers. American workers are demanding fair wages and safe workplaces.

Last month in Arkansas, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said American jobs were being lost because businesses have total control over wages. "We know that globalization is here to stay, but it doesn't have to be called survival," Sweeney said during a September 7 speech at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. "It doesn't work right when corporations are free to pillage the world for cheaper and cheaper labor, slave labor, child labor." Sweeney also criticized businesses for employing environmental practices that he characterized as globally unsustainable.

Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes said today that labor groups like his are only trying to make a better way of life for middle-income Americans. "Look in Arkansas at all the jobs that have been lost, going overseas because they get all the tax breaks," Hughes said. "We just ask for a level playing field."

Hughes accused "greedy" corporations of denying workers health care and of skimping on pay for the highly educated employees corporations say they crave. "It's time for companies to put their money where their mouth is."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ask Our Senators to Invest in America

In the next few days, the U.S. Senate will have an opportunity to Invest in America by voting on an appropriation bill that will help many working families in our nation. Please take a minute and ask them to do so.

The Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill helps fund child care for low-income workers, job training for those who lose their jobs, veterans' health, Head Start and more. Despite modest increases in spending levels, President Bush is threatening to veto this important bill. While spending nearly one-half trillion dollars on the war in Iraq, Bush is unwilling to spend just 1.4 percent more for these vital services here in our country. Therefore, we need as many senators to vote for this spending bill as possible.

Go to the link below to send a message to Senators Lincoln and Pryor. Tell them it's time to invest in America. Tell them to vote YES for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill.

Go to

Saturday, October 20, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 20, 1971. Responding to news report that President Nixon was considering nomination of Little Rock lawyer Herschel Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court, Arkansas AFL-CIO President Bill Becker calls Friday "an influence peddling manipulator of public bonds and utility rates" and a ready spokesman for "aristocrats and the privileged."

October 20, 1919. Arkansas Supreme Court rejects argument of Southern Anthracite Coal Mining Co., operating a coal mine near Russellville, that employees assumed all risk for permanent injuries while working in smoke-filled mine.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Union Plus "Save My Home" Hotline

The National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index, which tracks expectations for home sales over the next six months, fell to the lowest level since the index began in January 1985. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in a speech at Georgetown University’s law school this week, said the housing market slump is persisting for longer than expected and appears likely to “continue to adversely impact our economy, our capital markets and many homeowners for some time yet.”

As the U.S. housing crisis worsens, a "Save My Home" hotline has been set up by Union Plus to help union families address their worries and uncertainties about what to do when their adjustable-rate mortgages reset and other concerns.

Union Plus, the AFL-CIO endorsed provider of financial benefits for union members, says the free, confidential hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day by counselors from Money Management International, a nonprofit, HUD-certified agency. Face-to-face counseling is available at more than 100 offices in 22 states and Washington, D.C.

The Save My Home Hotline can advise homeowners who are behind in their payments, already in foreclosure or looking for ways to budget and restructure their debt. The toll-free number is (866) 490-5361. More information is available online at

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Appeals Court Screws Arkansas Workers

A good article by Doug Smith in today's Arkansas Times is worth reposting here:

A recent state Court of Appeals decision is so unfavorable to injured workers that it “perverts fairness,” according to a dissenting judge. The case will further agitate injured workers and their lawyers, who have complained for several years that the state's workers compensation laws have been tilted against employees by the legislature and a pro-employer Workers Compensation Commission.

In a 4 to 2 decision, the court ruled Oct. 3 that Edward Williams of Mountain Home couldn't pursue a workers compensation claim in Arkansas against his employer, Johnson Custom Homes of Mountain Home, because he'd accepted workers compensation benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. Johnson had contracted with an Ohio company, Paysource, to handle its payroll, and Williams had signed a form saying that any claim for work-related injury would go to Ohio. He said later that he'd been told he wouldn't receive a paycheck unless he signed.

After he was injured, Williams began receiving benefits, though he had considerable difficulty in dealing with the Ohio Bureau. But when he tried to amend his claim, on the advice of a doctor, the request was denied. When he then tried to pursue his claim in Arkansas, the Workers Compensation Commission said that he couldn't, and the Court of Appeals agreed.

Judge Robert J. Gladwin wrote in the majority opinion that “Appellant [Williams] is literate, educated and worked in management. He admitted that he had the agreement for several days before signing it and returning it … He had plenty of time to ask questions before signing. We hold that even had appellant failed to read the document, he made an election of remedies in Ohio by taking affirmative steps to pursue benefits from the Ohio Bureau.”

Judges Wendell Griffen and Sam Bird dissented. Griffen wrote that the majority “turns a blind eye on the bad-faith actions of the employer, which led to appellant pursuing his workers' compensation claim in a forum where he had no legitimate contacts. Because I consider such bad-faith actions contrary to the public policy upon which the workers' compensation system is based and fundamentally unconscionable, I must dissent.”

“It is inconsistent with both due process and the public policy of the State of Arkansas to enforce a coerced ‘agreement' whereby an Arkansas employee is forced to pursue workers' compensation benefits from an Arkansas employer for a compensable Arkansas injury in a different state with which the employee has no connections,” Griffen wrote. “Such an agreement violates public policy, deprives Arkansas workers from the protection of Arkansas workers' compensation laws, and is patently unconscionable. It perverts fairness to hold that employers can meet due process requirements for minimum contacts by coercing employees to sign unconscionable agreements that deprive Arkansas employees of the right to prosecute their claims for Arkansas injuries before the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission.”

Williams' attorney, Rick Spencer of Mountain Home, was predictably outraged by the majority decision. Spencer is one of the few Arkansas lawyers who still represents a significant number of workers comp claimants — other lawyers have found the field no longer profitable — and he's been highly critical of the commission and former governor Mike Huckabee, who appointed two of the three commissioners. (Before Gov. Mike Beebe took office in January, all three commissioners were Huckabee appointees.) Spencer said the Williams decision would allow all Arkansas employers to evade workers compensation claims by hiring out-of-state payroll companies. “How many injured workers will have the travel money to go to a WCC hearing in the state of Washington?” The decision will be appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, he said.

Posted with permission.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 17, 2005. Two members of United Steelworkers Union Local 1671 manning a legal picket line at National Wire Fabric at Star City are treated for injuries after avoiding truck that destroyed union banners and signs when trying to ram striking workers.

October 17, 1896. Arkansas Supreme Court overturns judgment of $142 against mine owners Abe and Ed Stiewel for medical expenses and injuries suffered by UMWA union miner Fred Borman during gas explosion in their Coal Hill mine.

October 17, 1949. About 325 ALCOA employees in Arkansas joined a nationwide strike of the CIO United Steel Workers. Local 323 Chairman W.S. Hale said the strike is a "peaceable one."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Support the United Way

The rising costs of housing, health care, utilities, and education, coupled with changes in the economy have left many hardworking individuals struggling to-support themselves and their families. In fact, one in three Americans uses a credit card to cover basic needs such as rent, utilities and food. Not since 1928 has the income gap in the United States been as large as it is today.

As our nation's individuals and families struggle to make ends meet, it is more critical than ever that we do what we can to help those in need in our community. As more and more of our neighbors are less than one paycheck away from homelessness, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people right here at home. By contributing to the annual United Way campaign, we are helping to fund the vital services necessary to help people get on, and stay on, their feet. Whether it's through financial security, early childhood education, or general health and well-being, our contributions go a long way to support the programs that advance the common good for all of us.

The Arkansas AFL-CIO and AFSCME Local 965 proudly endorse the 2007 United Way campaign and urge you to support the 2007 United Way campaign. By contributing as generously as you can, you are investing in our community
, in our neighbors, and in our future.

What's In YOUR Budget?

What are your priorities?

Tell us by taking our survey on America’s budget priorities. Just click here.

In the next few weeks, President Bush and Congress will have a showdown over priorities. Democrats are pushing for badly needed investment in services such as veterans' health care, Head Start, cancer research and job training. Dedicated AFSCME members are instrumental in providing many of these and other vital services.

President Bush insists that we don't have the moneyeven as he continues to spend billions on the ongoing Iraq civil war. In fact, President Bush has vowed to veto legislation with these priorities.

Tell us what your spending priorities are for America by clicking on this link:

We'll use the survey results to make sure Congress stands up to President Bush and fights for a budget that reflects the priorities and needs of real peoplea budget that fully funds public services. Take the survey today!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 13, 1914 Initiated Act 1 establishes Arkansas Child Labor Law forbidding any employment of children under 14 years of age and employment under 16 in specific occupations. The measure was opposed by mining, manufacturing, and business groups.

October 13, 1919 Arkansas Supreme Court rejects the outrageous argument of Central Coal & Coke Co. that Key Burns, a coal digger in mine No. 4 at Hartford, was attempting to commit suicide when he was electrocuted by uninsulated wires while working in mine

October 13, 1952 Governor Sid McMath appoints David Davies, UMWA State Representative from Paris, as the Arkansas Delegate to the Nineteenth National Conference on Labor Legislation in Washington, DC

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Help Mr. Boozman Understand Facts

Last week, President Bush vetoed bipartisan legislation to insure 10 million children.

Throughout the debate on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the president has, shall we say, stretched the facts about what the bill would do.

This angered Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a leading supporter of the SCHIP bill, who said: "The president’s understanding of our bill is wrong."

A few weeks ago, Rep. John Boozman voted against the SCHIP bill. As the House prepares to vote again—this time to override the Bush veto--we need your help to make sure Rep. Boozman is better informed this time around.

Click here to send Rep. Boozman the facts on SCHIP.

Make sure Congress has no excuse to deny health care to millions of children.

The fact is, this is not a partisan bill. Large bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted for it, and an overwhelming majority of Americans support its passage.

And ultimately, it’s about making an investment in our country’s future—our children. The legislation would continue health coverage for more than 6 million low-income children and extend coverage to an additional 4 million of America’s uninsured children.

Below are the facts about the SCHIP bill. (Remember to click here to send them to Rep. Boozman.)

FACT: The SCHIP bill would benefit low-income families. As Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a strong SCHIP supporter, said: “For those who argue that it’s out of control, 92 percent--no less than 91 percent, but really 92 percent of all the kids who will be covered by this bill--will be in families under 200 percent of the poverty level.” [Press Conference, 10/3/07]

FACT: No state currently covers children at $83,000 and the SCHIP reauthorization agreement does not raise the eligibility level to encourage states to cover families up to $83,000. The legislation targets funding to low-income children and actually reduces federal support for future coverage of children at higher income levels. There is nothing in the agreement that changes current law rules on interpretation and approval of appropriate income levels for eligibility above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. [H.R. 976, 2007]

FACT: The SCHIP compromise does not provide coverage to illegal immigrants. The bill reiterates current federal law, which prohibits coverage to illegal immigrants. The SCHIP compromise allows applicants to prove their citizenship by providing a Social Security Number (SSN). The Social Security Administration would then verify the SSNs against applicants’ names and citizenship status. [American Academy of Pediatrics]

FACT: The bipartisan SCHIP compromise combines the best of public and private approaches to provide health coverage to children. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is not an entitlement program; rather, it is a capped block grant program for states. The program affords states great flexibility to offer coverage as they choose. The majority of SCHIP programs are modeled after private insurance and use private plans to deliver benefits. [H.R. 976, 2007; Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 6/12/07]

Click here to make sure Rep. Boozman knows the facts before the House votes to override the Bush veto.

With your help, we can make sure millions of children get the health coverage they need.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 10, 1998 Dedication of the Coal Miners' Statue and Monument in City Park at Altus. Five granite memorials engraved with 500 names of area coal miners on each, with special homage given to those miners of District 21 in Franklin, Johnson, and Logan Counties who were killed in mining accidents. Focal point is a bronze statue of a miner. Ironically, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller was one of the speakers at the dedication honoring coal miners and the UMWA.

October 10, 1969 Lewis Johnson, President of the Arkansas Farmers Union, testifies before U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging about problems and needs of the elderly in rural Arkansas.

October 10, 1966 Members of Local No. 4, United Glass and Ceramic Workers Union join strike by Local No. 7, Window Glass Cutters League of America, without new contract at Harding Glass Company in Fort Smith.

Monday, October 1, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

October 1, 2002. U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson and Congressman John Boozman asked President George Bush to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and break the strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and expedite the delivery of Chinese goods imported by Wal-Mart.

October 1, 2006. Arkansas Minimum Wage is increased to $6.25 per hour. The stingy Republican controlled Congress and White House continued to hold federal minimum wage at $5.15 per hour.

October 1, 1997. The state minimum wage rose from $4.75 to $5.15 per hour.

Dr. Betty Martin Sworn In by Chief Justice

Dr. Betty Martin, Vice President of AFSCME Local 965, was sworn into office last Thursday as a member of the Governor's Commission on Global Warming. Chief Justice Jim Hannah administered the Oath of Office in the Arkansas Supreme Court Chamber.

The Commission will hold its organizational meeting on Tuesday, October 2, in Little Rock. It is charged with making recommendations to Governor Beebe and the Arkansas General Assembly next year.

Congratulations to Sister Betty!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The High Cost of Entertaining Legislators

There is an excellent article by Michael Wickline in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on how much lobbyists spend to influence the Arkansas General Assembly. According to incomplete reports filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State under the weak lobbyist reporting law, special interests spent more that $1.1 million to chat up legislators during the legislative session in Little Rock this spring.

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President Paul Harvel reveals that the state chamber collected $142,000 from member lobbyists for two big dinner events at the Peabody Hotel in March to "honor" House Speaker Benny Petrus and Senate President Pro Tem Jack Critcher and their colleagues. The exact amounts spent were $68,225.57 for the House party and $26,516.43 for the Senate party. That works out to $682.25 per house member and $757.60 per senator for those two events. The Chamber said it refunded $47,258 in excess contributions from the lobbyists.

Do you think that might help explain why the legislature usually does the bidding of big business and ignores the needs of working families in Arkansas?

Workers Certified for Collective Action

J. Guadalupe Resendiz-Ramirez, J. Eloy Resendiz-Ramirez, Enoc Ramirez-Perez, Baltasar Trejo-Mata, Luis Guerrero-Ramirez, and Alejandro Trejo-Leon came to Arkansas in 2005 to work for P&H Forestry under the federal H-2 A program that allows agribusiness to request temporary visas for foreign workers when they say sufficient U. S. labor cannot be found.

In April, the six Mexican farm laborers filed suit in federal court and claimed that the company and its owners paid them less than the federal minimum wage, failed to pay them on time, used them for such unauthorized work as collecting trash for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, and retaliated against workers who tried to claim their labor rights.

Judge Harry F. Barnes of U. S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in El Dorado on Thursday certified for collective action their lawsuit against Hermitage-based P&H Forestry LLC, Brent Harrod, John Harrod and Andre Blanchard and ordered the defendants to provide the plaintiffs with contact information for all similarly situated workers that they employed in Arkansas from September 2004 to the present.

Arkansas law provides very few rights or protections for agricultural workers, who are not even covered under basic state minimum wage, unemployment, or worker compensation laws when they are injured. The Arkansas Farm Bureau and agribusiness interests in Arkansas always oppose legislation for the protection of farm workers, and conservative legislators are seldom persuaded to support Arkansas workers’ rights in face of that opposition.