Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thank You Senator Madison

We were informed this evening that Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 361 is on the Calendar for Thursday, March 1. It removes the names of Senator Jack Crumby of Widener and Senator Sue Madison of Fayetteville as sponsors of this unconscionable legislation to reduce the state minimum wage to $2.13 for workers who might receive tips for service.

Senator Madison told the Northwest Arkansas Times that she did not know how her name came to be listed as a sponsor and that she had not signed onto the bill. We appreciate Senator Madison removing her name as a sponsor of the bill, and we urge her to lead the opposition to this anti-worker legislation when it comes before the State Senate.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Local Democrats Join Opposition to SB361

We received an email today informing us that the Washington County Democratic Central Committee has unanimously adopted a Resolution opposing Senate Bill 361. The text of the Resolution says that the local party "supports the recently enacted increase in the state minimum wage, opposes Senate Bill 361 to cut the minimum wage for hourly workers, and respectfully requests that all Democratic state legislators support the interests of working families by opposing and voting against Senate Bill 361."

Working families and UA students who rely on the minimum wage to make ends meet each month are grateful for this expression of support from the Democratic Party. We would be even more impressed if local Democratic legislators Sue Madison and Marilyn Edwards would remove their names as sponsors and lead the opposition against this bill.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

NWA Labor Council Opposes SB361

More evidence that public opposition is growing against Senate Bill 361 that would cut the minimum wage for thousands of Arkansas workers to $2.13 per hour.

Resolution 2007-1
, adopted this evening, states in relevant part: Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, that the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council unanimously opposes Senate Bill 361 and respectfully requests that all Northwest Arkansas legislators support the interests of working families by opposing and voting against Senate Bill 361.

Members of affiliated unions in Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington Counties wishing to contact their legislators can find email and mailing addresses here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shameful Attack on Minimum Wage

For the first time in Arkansas history, legislation has been introduced to reduce the minimum wage for hourly employees by 49 cents an hour.

AFSCME was among the leadership of the religious groups and labor unions that drafted and collected signatures last year to offer a constitutional amendment raising the Arkansas Minimum Wage, but we suspended that effort in favor of legislation that was enacted during the 2006 Special Session. Among the provisions opposed by AFSCME Local 965 but demanded by the Chamber of Commerce and business interests and accepted by legislative leaders was a Sub-Minimum Wage of $2.62 per hour for employees who might also receive tip income for services.

Now the business and corporate special interests want even more out of the hide of workers; they want to CUT the Arkansas Sub-Minimum Wage to a paltry $2.13 per hour—that would be a total paycheck of $85.20 before taxes for a 40-hour work week. It is shameful that nine Democrats have joined 10 Republicans in sponsoring Senate Bill 361.

We are pleased to see that Representative Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville) has already announced her opposition to Senate Bill 361. We trust that other legislative supporters of working families in Arkansas will join her in publicly opposing this attack on workers in the service industry.

It is deeply disappointing that Senator Sue Madison and Representative Marilyn Edwards are co-sponsors of this disgraceful attack on low-wage workers. They falsely claim that the legislation “is necessary to protect jobs within the State of Arkansas, prevent an increase in costs to residents and tourists that patronize restaurants, and protect the financial stability of businesses that rely on the services provided by tipped employees.” We have heard those deceitful arguments from Republicans and big business ever since FDR’s first minimum wage law was enacted over their opposition. They ring equally hollow and equally cruel today. What about the quality of life for hourly employees who would receive $19.60 less each week?

Write to Senator Madison and Representative Edwards today and remind them that the Platform of the Democratic Party of Arkansas adopted in 2006 declares, “We strongly advocate that workers and their families be supported by fair compensation through a living wage and provision of benefits. Ask them to remove their names as co-sponsors of this dishonorable attack on working families and to vote against the bill.

Senator Sue Madison:

Rep. Marilyn Edwards:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Peace at Home Project

Since 1980, the Peace At Home Family Shelter has served thousands of families in their current facility. This building has been a refuge for battered women and their children, and the programs provided in it have provided a springboard to new hope and healing for residents of our community. The present building is only still operating because friends have donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time each year to paint it and fix it up. AFSCME Local 965 members recently volunteered their time and money to help, as Bruce McNully rebuilt a bathroom floor at the shelter, and Lindsley Smith purchased and donated the materials for the project.

With the help of concerned citizens, groups, churches, and unions, Peace at Home Family Shelter gets one step closer each day to fulfilling its mission to END family violence. The Shelter has seen a dramatic increase in clients hoping to create better lives for themselves and their children. Over the past two years, their crisis calls have doubled and their shelter is full or near capacity most nights. We at AFSCME Local 965 hope to see it grow stronger for years to come until no woman or child has to live in fear, but, rather, has peace at home.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Community Service Awards for 2006

Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has announced the winners of the Community Service Awards for 2006. Just as AFSCME workers are "in the public service," we appreciate and wish to recognize those who significantly contribute to improving the lives of working families in our local community. It is in that spirit that we are pleased to announce the annual Community Service Awards for 2006 and to express our appreciation for these individuals who make a difference.

News Reporting: Adam Wallworth
Northwest Arkansas Times

News Commentary: Doug Thompson
Arkansas News Bureau appearing in The Morning News

Electronic Media: Jim Bemis
Community Access Television

Public Education: Karla Bradley
Owl Creek School

Local Government: Lioneld Jordan
Fayetteville Ward 4 Alderman

Citizen Activist: Jeff Erf

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mid-South Union Leadership Institute

The Mid-South Union Leadership Institute, conducted by the UALR Labor Education Program is sponsored by the Arkansas AFL-CIO, Mississippi AFL-CIO, Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Tennessee AFL-CIO, and Texas AFl-CIO. It will be held March 15-17 at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock. Workshops for union officers and representatives with leadership responsibilities include:

Effective Local Union Administration: Roles of the Officers and Executive Board; Setting and Achieving Goals; Conducting Effective Local and Committee Meetings; and Using Parliamentary Procedure

Union Building: Identifying Leadership Styles and Skills; Growing The Membership; Increasing Participation; Dealing with Conflicts in the Local

Faith and Labor: Explore the link between the values and beliefs of the major religious traditions and the labor movement. Learn how to build support from the faith based community.

Political Action in the Local: Learn how to talk to your members about important political and legislative issues and to mobilize members around those issues.

The complete agenda and registration materials are available here in PDF. Certificates will be awarded. University policy requires delegates stay for the entire seminar in order to receive a certificate of completion and continuing education units.

Arkansas AFL-CIO Legislative Conference

There will be an AFL-CIO & APFF Joint Legislative Conference on February 26th – 28th, 2007. The conference will be held at the Comfort Inn & Suites located at 707 Interstate 30, Little Rock, Arkansas. At the conference we will be discussing legislation of interest to union members and the working families of Arkansas. Any member of AFSCME Local 965 can attend this conference. There is a registration fee of $35.00 per person.

Coalition of Labor Union Women Leading the Fight Against Cervical Cancer

Maybe you've seen the TV ads where women implore you to "Tell Someone" that cervical cancer is caused by a common virus and that you need to be screened regularly to prevent getting the disease. The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) is reaching out to educate union women and the wives and daughters of union men about the need for screening.

The big news is that women and girls between the ages of nine and 26 now can get a vaccine to prevent the disease, says Carolyn Jacobson, director of CLUW's Cervical Cancer Prevention Works program. The cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be detected through regular screenings before it becomes cancer. Yet, this year, health experts say, more than 10,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 3,700 will die from it.

Jacobson says: There is no reason why union women should get cervical cancer. More than 86 percent of union members have health insurance and most health plans today cover the Pap test and the Pap and HPV test for women over 30, which is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society.

To spread awareness of the ways to prevent cervical cancer, CLUW prepared a two-page, ready-to-use article to use in union publications or websites. The article features two union women, both cervical cancer survivors, who have created not-for-profit organizations to get the awareness and prevention message out in unique and creative ways. To download a copy of the CLUW ready-to-use article, click here .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee Calls Iraq War Escalation 'Reckless and Wrong'

Gerald W. McEntee
, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, issued the following statement on the escalation of the war in Iraq: "The President's decision to escalate the war in Iraq is reckless and wrong. It's bad foreign policy and takes away the resources we need to solve problems here at home. This ill-conceived war of choice has cost the lives of more than 3,000 American soldiers and countless billions in U.S. treasure. We could have solved the American health care crisis for what this war has cost us. The time has long past to bring our troops home.”

President Bush has nudged support for the troop increase to 35%, with increased support from Republicans and people with higher incomes. Overall, however, 63% of Americans surveyed oppose the increase. A majority of people said the war was a hopeless cause, and they did not think more troops would stabilize Iraq, according to the AP-Ipsos poll released on February 16th.

House Democrats, responding to the public's opposition to the war, pushed a nonbinding resolution that criticized Bush for the planned buildup. The resolution passed Friday, but Congressman John Boozman (R-AR3) was the only Arkansas Congressman to oppose it and vote in favor of Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

AFSCME Local 965 on Thursday, February 15th, adopted a Resolution opposing President Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq and supporting the M11 Demonstration for Peace set for March 11, 2007.

Boozman Against Employee Free Choice

The Employee Free Choice Act, was introduced last week with 232 co-sponsors, including Arkansas Representatives Vic Snyder, Mike Ross and Marion Berry. The bill would make it easier for employees to organize and protect them against unfair labor practices and tactics some companies use to prevent workers from forming unions, said Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas AFL-CIO.

Congressman John Boozman is the only Arkansas member opposed to the legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Wal-Mart Stores shares Boozman’s opposition to the proposed legislation, said Wal-Mart spokesman Robert Traynham

Lioneld Jordan, AFSCME Local 965 member and President of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council, said unions are not just about wages and benefits, but about respect and dignity for workers. Things like the weekend, the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and health and retirement benefits that many people take for granted are a result of the efforts of unions.

Unions are needed as much, if not more, now than they ever have been in history, he said, with the growing trend of outsourcing American jobs overseas. Corporations are sending jobs to third-world countries, where they abuse the workers in sweatshops with low wages and little concern for safety, Jordan said, just so they can make cheaper products. Unions bring workers higher wages and safe working conditions, which translates into a better life and education for the worker and their children.

Write Congressman Boozman and tell him to support the rights of working families in Arkansas.

Arkansas AFL-CIO General Counsel Visits

Mark L. Martin, former member of AFSCME Local 965
and now General Counsel of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, spoke at our monthly meeting on February 15th to discuss legal services available to local union members. Martin said he is proud to have been a member of Local 965 when he worked at the UA Physical Plant in the 1970s and to have served on the Executive Board of AFSCME Council 38.

The Martin & Kieklak Law Firm is dedicated to representing working men and women throughout Arkansas and the United States who have been injured through the negligence of others. The firm's areas of practice include personal injury, Workers' Compensation, Social Security Disability, labor law, asbestos and toxic tort litigation. "We support the ideals of the American Labor Movement, and we take pride in the fact that our law firm is 100% Union, OPEIU Local 105 (AFL-CIO),
" Martin said.

The Martin & Kieklak Law Firm is located at 2059 Green Acres Road, Fayetteville. AFSCME members can call for free consultation at
479-442-2244 or 1-800-633-2160 (toll free).

AFSCME Local 2957 Wins Benefits

U.S. District Judge Rodney Webb ruled in favor of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2957, which sued the city of Benton after the City Council voted to discontinue medical retirement benefits promised to retirees and to reduce benefits included in the union's contract with the city.

Terry White, President of Local 2957, said, “The city promised us something that they wanted to take away. I hate that the city had to spend all that money fighting something that they had agreed to give us.”

AFSCME Local 965 member Jim Nickels was the attorney representing the union and retired employees John A. Parks, Bobby L. Asher and Bill Wyllia. The city has agreed to settlements with these three retirees.

In reviewing an earlier ruling, Nickels noted that the court ruled that “the city had entered into a contract and was bound by the contract. Basically, this was an attempt by the City Council to take away those contractual benefits, and the court ruling says this action is null and void.”

“When those employees worked, they provided their end of the bargain,” Nickels said. “The city promised they would have health insurance when they retired and that the city would pay for it, but the city reneged on the promise.” The rulings of the court, Nickels said, are based on “if you make a promise, stand by the promise.”

UMWA President Speaks on UA Campus

Martin Luther King Jr. decided he should do what he knew was right, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said. It’s a lesson Roberts tried to convey to students at the UA Leflar Law Center. Roberts’ talk, “Labor and Civil Rights — The King Legacy,” was part of the Hartman Hotz Lecture Series on January 31st. A sixth-generation coal miner, Roberts drew parallels between the struggles of the civil rights and labor movements.

The link between the two movements is not a new one. In a 1961 speech to the AFL-CIO, King said, “We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the goodwill and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us. They deplore our discontent, they resent our will to organize, so that we may guarantee that humanity will prevail and equality will be exacted.”

In both instances, people risked their lives to fight established systems, and in both cases their sacrifices benefited the greater good. “It’s hard to do what’s right,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to do what God would want you to do.”

Local 965 member Cyndi Nance, dean of the law school, said the school brought Roberts, who is white, to UA to kick off events for Black History Month in February and to expose students to a different perspective. It takes many people willing to stand up for what they believe in to enact change, Roberts said. “The moment you say it’s all right for someone to be discriminated against, it’s all right for everyone to be discriminated against.”

Roberts has been UMWA president since 1995. “You’re going to be challenged in your lifetime,” he told the students. “When it’s your turn, look around you and just try to do what’s right.”

Lioneld Jordan Gives MLK Address

Local 965 member Lioneld Jordan delivered the Martin Luther King address to the January 16th meeting of the Senior Democrats of Northwest Arkansas, detailing the connection between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, and the labor movement. Jordan, who is also president of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council, said there are many lessons that can be learned from King and the civil rights movement that can be applied to today’s class struggle.

One of the chief organizers of King’s famous “ I have a dream” speech was A. Philip Randolph, a labor leader and civil rights activist, he said. Randolph organized the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, the first serious effort to form a labor union for employees of the Pullman Co., a major employer of African Americans.

If King were alive today, what would he say of the condition the world is in, Jordan asked. “The first thing he would be concerned about is the little guy,” he said. “We as Democrats must also be concerned about the welfare of the little guy. I believe we are.” Democrats need to continue fighting for decent living wages, Jordan said.

“King would have said it’s no good to free up the lunch counters if you can’t afford a hamburger,” Jordan said. “ It’s no good to free up the drinking fountains if the water is so polluted it’s not worth drinking.” King would ask why jobs are being sent overseas, he continued, instead of kept in the country. We must help bring jobs back and not only support a raise in the minimum wage to $ 7.10 per hour, but strive for a living wage for working families. “We need to attack the war on poverty. Let’s stamp it out in this country once and for all.”

Theresa Sims Earns Diversity Certification

UA Human Resources recognized Local 965 member Theresa Sims with the award of a Diversity Certificate on January 29th. Theresa, who is one of only 28 UA employees to qualify for the award, earned the recognition for her commitment to diversity by participating in a 20-hour program that included classroom training, community service, self-study, and a personal impact statement that described her intentions to further the goals of diversity and inclusion on campus.

On behalf of all the members of AFSCME Local 965, we congratulate Sister Theresa and further express our appreciation for her dedication and service to our community in organizing and conducting the AFSCME Christmas Toy Drive that was a part of her community service hours. Through her leadership in this important community service project, numerous children from low-income families in Northwest Arkansas had a brighter holiday season and an understanding of the spirit of giving that is the essence of the Christmas season as well as the concern for the community by the members of our union.