Friday, August 31, 2007

Governor Beebe to Overhaul State Pay Plan

Governor Mike Beebe yesterday pledged executive branch cooperation with legislators in developing recommendations for overhauling the pay plan for state employees. "There are obvious areas that need to be addressed," Beebe said. "We've got significant turnover in state agencies in the entry-level and lower-paid positions. That's counterproductive for everybody."

During the last fiscal year, 17.9% of the state's 27,400 workers left state employment, and 75% of those were entry-level workers. Beebe said the high turnover among state employees is bad for taxpayers, “because productivity goes down and you end up having to do something else.”

Act 868 of 2007 requires the Department of Finance and Administration Office of Personnel Management to study the state's personnel classification and compensation plan and submit recommendations for changes to lawmakers by Oct. 1, 2008. The 2009 General Assembly will likely act on those recommendations, and AFSCME Local 965 will be working with legislators to assure a fair pay plan with a living wage and good health care and retirement benefits for all state employees.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On August 30, 1919, Charles Nalley suffered a broken leg in an accident while driving a delivery wagon and delivering ice cream and milk on West Ninth Street in Little Rock. His employer, Terry Dairy Company, denied violating the child labor law or knowing that Nalley was only 13-years old. It also contested the $1,000 jury award for his injuries.

Today, after the 1993 amendments to the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Act, workers in Arkansas have greatly reduced coverage for job-related injuries. Employers almost always contest any Workers' Comp insurance claim, and they usually appeal the decisions when injured workers receive medical benefits. Fewer attorneys will accept Workers Compensation clients, because the system is so stacked in favor of the employers and litigation costs often make it prohibitive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

AFL-CIO President Sweeney to Speak in LR

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, will speak at noon on Friday, September 7th, in Sturgis Hall at the Clinton School of Public Service, Little Rock. His topic will be, "America Isn't Working the Way It Should for Working People – and What to Do About It."

Sweeney is the four-term president of the AFL-CIO, the largest union organization in the United States, representing 54 affiliated unions and 10 million members, as well as more than 1.5 million members in Working America, its new community affiliate. Unlike some other union organizations, the AFL-CIO has yet to endorse a presidential candidate. Sweeney is a graduate of Iona College and holds honorary degrees from Oberlin College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Baltimore, Catholic University Law School and the University of Toledo’s College of Law.

There is no admission charge, and you are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Water and soft drinks will be provided. For reserved seating call 501.683.5239 or email

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Latest on Lower Salaries for Women Faculty

The Arkansas Times has a cover story today, "Women Still Trail," documenting the fact that "One thing women want is equal pay for equal work, and there's considerable evidence they aren't getting it in an area where one might expect the most enlightenment on this issue — higher education."

Of Arkansas university presidents, Lu Hardin of the University of Central Arkansas at Conway is the one who has done more than just talk about gender equity. He was hired in 2002, and from 2003 to 2005, the salary gap for women assistant professors went from 97% to 99.9%. During the same time period, the University of Arkansas has seen the salary gap actually widen for women faculty, with female assistant professors last year making 83% of the salary paid to their male colleagues. That reflects what has been going on here during the past seven years with regard to investing in outstanding women faculty and increasing diversity among the faculty.

AFSCME Local 965 supports equal pay for equal work. No bureaucratic excuses. We demand equal pay for women and fair pay for everyone.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On August 21, 1986, J. Bill Becker, president of the Arkansas State AFL-CIO, charged that the state Arkansas Industrial Development Commission industrial recruiters tend to be "antiunion" and try to promote the state to industry based on low wages and cheap labor.

Not much has changed except the name of the anti-union commission. Today, the website of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission tells industrial prospects, "Don't forget our pro-business environment - we're a right-to-work state with people who work right." They want corporations to know that they "can take advantage of ... favorable unemployment insurance and workers' compensation rates," meaning that Arkansas workers suffer with poor benefits so that businesses can make higher profits.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On August 19, 2000, the Service Employees International Union Local 100 released a study that estimated 1,512 state employees receive salaries below their poverty threshold and called for higher wages for state workers.

Today, state employees at the University of Arkansas still receive salaries below the national and regional averages, and some are below the federal poverty level. The loss of experienced staff to higher salaries in the private sector and the flight of faculty to other institutions continues to be a problem, but the University administration seems to have other priorities for funds. Construction continues apace on the new multi-million dollar Chancellor's Home.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Our Community Mourns Loss

Local union members and university employees mourn the death of four family members from Fayetteville killed Tuesday in a car accident in Mexico. Paul Hoover and his wife, Maureen, were in a rental car with Paul's father and stepmother, Steve and Sharon Hoover, when another car crossed the highway median and struck the car they were in.

AFSCME Local 965 extends its sympathy to the family of Brother Paul and Maureen Hoover. Paul Hoover was a firefighter and an active member of IAFF Local 33. Maureen Hoover was an employee of the University of Arkansas, where she directed the Upward Bound program to help young children prepare for college.

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On August 18, 1986, striking members of UAW Local 2216 at East Camden ask for an injunction stopping and prohibiting LTV scab employees from hitting pickets with their cars, threatening strikers, spitting on strikers, and attacking strikers on picket line.

Union Steward Seminar

APWU Local 667 will be sponsoring a "Steward Seminar" on Saturday, September 8, 2007 in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The "Steward Seminar" will be a special all-day training course for union stewards put on by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock by their Labor Education Department.

Included with $50 registration is a delicious lunch buffet at the Cosmopolitan (formerly Hilton and Radisson) and refreshments in conference room. Mail registration to Fayetteville APWU Local at P.O. Box 654, Fayetteville, AR 72702.

The hotel room accommodations are separate from registration/tuition. Room rate is only $75 per night. Call Cosmopolitan Hotel directly at (479) 442-5555. To get the discounted group rate, inform them you will be attending the "Steward Seminar" ­sponsored by APWU. The Hotel is located at 70 N. East Street, just off the square in downtown Fayetteville.
For more information contact Loren Adams at (479) 521-0356 or by email at

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On August 15, 1918, John Krallman, a Logan County coal miner and member of the United Mine Workers of America, was severely injured in a mine accident when the roof collapsed and fell on him. The owners and management of the Subiaco Coal Company denied all responsibility for his injuries, although the pit boss had refused Krallman's request for extra roof props and ordered him to shut up and get back to work.

Today, 134 miners are digging their way through the collapsed Crandall Canyon Mine at Huntington, Utah, still trying to rescue the six miners missing since the roof collapsed 10 days ago. Meanwhile, Robert E. Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy and co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine continues to hold regular press conferences to protect the corporate image of the mine owners.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Government officials have indefinitely halted their attempts to dig to six miners trapped since August 6, after a cave-in Thursday night killed three rescuers and injured six others.

"Despite misleading and self-serving comments to the contrary ... these miners' lives were jeopardized because of the acts of men," United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts said Friday. He expressed doubts about whether Mine Safety and Health Administration and the mine's owners "fulfilled their responsibilities" to keep the miners and their rescuers safe.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Legislators Try Living on Food Stamps

Twenty-two state legislators have agreed to spend just $3 a day for food over a three-day period this week to raise awareness of hunger and low benefits for food stamp recipients, mostly single mothers and their children. The average monthly food stamp benefit in Arkansas is just under $90 a month, or about $3 a day, and the Food Stamp Program helps more than 380,000 low-income Arkansans purchase food for themselves and their families.

The Arkansas Hunger Challenge will allow state lawmakers to understand how the state food stamp program works. "We're hoping that this activity helps state officials to understand the importance of the program so they can urge their federal counterparts to strengthen it," said Hope Coulter, executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Coalition.

Among the 21 Democratic lawmakers planning to participate in the three-day hunger challenge, which begins Monday, include: House Speaker Benny Petrus, D-Stuttgart, and Reps. Pam Adcock, D-Little Rock; Fred Allen, D-Little Rock; Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock; David Cook, D-Williford; Monty Davenport, D-Yellville; David Dunn, D-Forrest City; Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff; Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana; David Johnson, D-Little Rock; Janet Johnson, D-Bryant; Buddy Lovell, D-Marked Tree; Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia; Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith; Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville; Johnnie Roebuck, D-Arkadelphia; Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville; Charlotte Wagner,, D-Manila; and Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock. State senators include Sen. Mary Anne Salmon, D-North Little Rock, and Hank Wilkins IV, D-Pine Bluff. The only Republican legislator participating is Rep. Rick Green of Van Buren.

Congratulations to Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville. Of the 14 Representatives and 6 Senators from Northwest Arkansas, she is the only legislator from the 4-county area participating in the Food Stamp Challenge.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Bad Boss Contest

'I told my boss that I needed a day off to get married...and he told me to do it during my lunch break.'

Yes, folks, it's that time of year--time to find out just who has the worst boss in America. Is it you? Tell Working America and you could win a much-deserved vacation.

People like you work hard, all too often for little recognition or far worse. Like the guy whose boss made him pay for flowers the company sent when the employee's dad died. Unbelievable!

That's what Working America's second annual "My Bad Boss Contest" is all about. Share your worst bad boss moments, and you could win a weeklong getaway, miles away from your boss, airfare included.

Each week, Working America will post your stories on the Bad Boss website, and readers like you will vote for their favorites (make that LEAST favorites). Click here to share your story now.

Even if you're lucky enough NOT to have a bad boss story to share, you can participate by voting for your favorite stories or joining the community to discuss other workplace horrors. Share, vent and give yourself a chance to be recognized for what you face each day on the job.

Tell the world about your Bad Boss now. P.S. Don't worry. The contest is anonymous.

Friday, August 3, 2007

AFSCME Wins on Children's Health Act

In the last two weeks, nearly 10,000 AFSCME members called and emailed Congress urging members to expand health care for children and protect Medicare for seniors.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program was created by President Clinton under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and it allocated about $20 billion over five years to help states bridge the safety net gap for low-income children who are ineligible for Medicaid but still lack private health insurance. It was scheduled to expire on September 30.

Arkansas uses its State Children's Health Insurance Program money to fund the ArKids First, which provides basic insurance coverage for children of families whose income is within 200 percent of the federal poverty level, about $40,000 for a family of four. In the decade since ArKids First was implemented, the percentage of uninsured children in the state has dropped from 23% to 10%. About 90,000 children are covered by ArKids First.

The legislation to extend and expand the program to provide health care coverage for more children passed the U.S. Senate by a 68-31 vote on Thursday. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) both voted for the bill that would add 3 million lower-income children to a popular health insurance program in bipartisan defiance of President Bush's threatened veto. On Wednesday, the bill had passed the House by a vote of 225-204. Arkansas’ three Democratic Congressmen Vic Snyder, Marion Berry, and Mike Ross voted with the majority for passage.

These votes are proof that when AFSCME members fight, we win. A majority of the lawmakers agreed with us and did what we asked them to do for low-income children. "For the amount of money ... that we now spend in Iraq every six months, we can cover an estimated 10 million lower-income children with much-needed health care for five years," Senator Lincoln said

Only Republican Congressman John Boozman (R-AR3) voted against extending state health care coverage for children. "What this appears to be is a first step toward socialized medicine," said Boozman, who objected that the bill would provide health coverage to many middle-class families.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

AFSCME 965 Backs Family Leave Insurance

AFSCME Local 965 urges U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln to support and sign as co-sponsors on the landmark legislation introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) that would provide up to 8 weeks of paid leave to workers needing time off due to the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious illness or to care for their own serious illness. The Family Leave Insurance Act of 2007 will benefit both businesses and their employees by establishing a Family Leave Insurance Fund, through which employees, employers and the federal government share the cost of providing compensation during times of family crisis.

“No one should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love, and I deeply regret that today many people are forced to make these types of decisions,” said Dodd. “Our nation’s economy, its production and its competitiveness, benefit when workers are able to meet their demands at home and on the job. The Family and Medical Leave Act was a major milestone in our nation’s dialogue that acknowledged that families, workforce production and competitiveness are not mutually exclusive. It was a critically important first step, but the elimination of needed income during times of crisis in family life is something no hard-working American should experience.”

The Work, Family and Equity Index, released by researchers from Harvard and McGill Universities, shows that the United States lags behind 163 other countries that guarantee paid maternal leave and 45 countries that provide paid paternal leave. Additionally, 37 countries already ensure paid leave for the care of an ill child. This legislation would help close that gap, and begin to bring the United States up to par with these nations that have already made great strides towards balancing the competing demands placed on workers by their families and careers.

Costs will be shared by employees, employers, and the federal government. Both employees and employers must pay a small premium for the insurance, equivalent to 0.2 percent of each employee’s earnings. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may opt in to the Fund at a 50% discount, with premiums equivalent to 0.1 percent of earnings and the federal government paying administrative costs that are not covered by the Fund. This financing structure should allow the Insurance Program to pay for itself with little cost to the federal government and taxpayers.

Senator Dodd is the author of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has allowed more than 50 million workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they are ill or if they need to care for a sick family member or new child.

AFSCME Local 965 backed state legislation earlier this year to expand the availability of unpaid family leave for parents with new children. It was defeated in a House Committee by opposition from business owners and committee members with business interests who said it would be inconvenient for them to accommodate the parents of newborns by granting unpaid leave from work.