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.

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 30, 1957. Pluss Poultry of Siloam Springs refuses to abide by arbitrators award in favor of Food Handlers Local 425, Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, regarding dues check off and job postings.

September 30, 1919. Whites attack and fire upon a meeting of the Progressive Farmers' and Household Union of America in a church at Hoop Spur, leading to the "Elaine Massacre."

September 30, 1971. David Gunderfest of Arkansas Retailers Association testifies before U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor for exemptions from raising the federal minimum wage to $2.00

September 30, 1999. U.S. Census Bureau figures released today showed that Arkansas ranks 51st among the states and the District of Columbia in what the average family earns. Arkansas family income was $27,117, making only 71% of national median family income at $38,233

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 29, 1891 A Planters' Posse under leadership of Lee County Sheriff W. T. Derrick crushed the Colored Alliance cotton pickers' strike for higher wages, killing or lynching 15 strikers, including union leader Ben Patterson.

It would be almost thirty years before blacks again tried to organize an agricultural union in the Arkansas delta, bringing a response from the planters, law enforcement officials, and state government that is still remembered as "the Elaine Massacre."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 26, 1917 Mob of 150 farmers kidnap four suspected I.W.W. organizers in Stuttgart jail on vagrancy charges, administer a severe whipping, and apply hot tar and feathers, for attempting to organize farm laborers and encouraging a strike for better wages.

September 26, 1966 Members of Local No. 4, United Glass and Ceramic Workers cross picket lines of Local No. 7, Window Glass Cutters League of America at Harding Glass Co. plant at Ft. Smith.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Boozman Votes Against Children's Health

The U.S. House passed the bill today to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. The vote was 265-159 on a recorded roll call.

Voting yes were 220 Democrats and 45 Republicans.

Voting no were 8 Democrats and 151 Republicans.


Democrats - Berry, Yes; Ross, Yes; Snyder, Yes.

Republicans - Boozman, No.

Call Boozman, Override the Veto

George Bush has threatened to veto legislation to cover 10 million children—4 million of whom are uninsured--under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), an important safety net for Arkansas children.

To get this legislation past the Bush veto, we’ll need to convince dozens of Republican members of Congress — Republicans like Rep. John Boozman — to side with children over the president.

The program is set to expire next Sunday, Sept. 30. The time for Congress to act is now.

Call Rep. Boozman today and deliver this message: Side with children, not Bush.


Here are some quick talking points you can use when speaking with Rep. Boozman’s office:

  • The time is now for Congress to deliver to President Bush legislation to cover more children. Merely extending the SCHIP program will leave millions of eligible children without coverage.

  • Do not oppose this bill—it will bring coverage to 4 million more children who currently are uninsured, for a total of 10 million children.

  • Congress must stand with children, not the president, and support a strong SCHIP bill that gets children the health care they need.

Monday, September 24, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 24, 1998 Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR3) votes against a bill prohibiting employers from laying off U.S. workers from positions filled by a foreign worker and making it illegal to use H-1B visas to slash payroll costs.

September 24, 1921 Thirty-eight UMWA coal miners arrested at Spadra, charged with night-riding in dispute over "strip pit" mining with the open shop mine operators Werner-Dunlap Coal Company.

September 24, 1936 Paul D. Peacher, Crittenden County deputy sheriff, indicted in federal court for peonage. Peacher had arrested striking sharecroppers for vagrancy and forced them to work on plantations.

September 24, 2001 Armando Carrillo, a maintenance worker, was severely burned in the explosion and knocked from a balcony by the blast that killed fellow employee Clinton Newkirk at the Alpharma Animal Health plant at Lowell. The deadly fire also released arsine gas and possibly heavy metals and antibiotics in contaminated runoff, causing evacuation of an adjacent elementary school. The company was fined $77,000.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

UA Responds to Employee Child Care Needs

AFSCME Local 965 began last May to investigate the options for expanded child care facilities on the UA campus and to advocate for a family-friendly solution for the needs of employees and non-traditional students. We are pleased that on this issue the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees shares our concerns about the needs of working families and is scheduled to select an architect today to design a new Child Study / Research Center for the Fayetteville campus.

The proposed 10,000-square foot center would be able to serve up to 125 children and combine the overcrowded UA Infant Development Center and UA Nursery School, now in separate buildings that can accommodate no more than 20 children each and having long waiting lists, according to Mary Warnock, Director of the School of Human Environmental Sciences. Dean Greg Weidemann of the UA's Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences said the college will soon begin raising funds for the $4 million project that is expected to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 22, 1917 Sebastian County Grand Jury indicts Mayor J.H. Wright for failing to interfere with picket line and disperse boisterous striking telephone operators and sympathizers from the area around the telephone company building.

September 22, 1998 U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) votes against legislation to raise the federal minimum wage above $5.15 an hour.

September 22, 1917 Accident at Central Coal & Coke Co. Mine No. 6, Sebastian County, crushed head and mangled James Patterson, 17, who died from those injuries in April 1918. Central Coal and Coke denied negligence and any responsibility, said the boy assumed risk when he entered the mine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September Monthly Meeting on Thursday

The September monthly membership meeting of AFSCME Local 965 will be tomorrow at 4:15 at Jim's Razorback Pizza on West 6th. Pizza provided; beverages on your own. Bring a new member.

Please bring canned goods for donation to the Seven Hills Homeless Shelter.

Brother Fillan will present a report on the UALR Stewards Seminar which he recently completed and other training available from the Labor Education Program. The agenda includes a decision on whether to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Education requesting assistance in correcting the University's practice of paying female faculty less than their male colleagues. We will also be discussing the union's plans to conduct a campus-wide survey on the demand for a child care cooperative on campus for employees and non-traditional students. Brother Lioneld will provide information on the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council's plans for the Citizen Leadership Academy and the upcoming labor picnic.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 17, 2005 U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright required Big Impressions LLC to pay $8,500 damages for fraudulent and unauthorized use of the Graphic Communications International Union label on printing and prohibits any future use of the logo without written consent.

September 17, 1999 ACORN and the Central Arkansas Labor Council estimate the local "living" wage at $28,741.59 for a family of four. A minimum wage job pays $ 10,300 a year, while an $ 8-an-hour job pays $ 16,000 a year.

September 17, 1991 Morrilton Plastics Products defaulted on a state-backed loan, forcing Arkansas taxpayers to cough up about $270,000 to cover the debt from 1990 loan guaranteed by the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission and made to help the company break a United Auto Workers strike.

September 17, 1953 Local Machinists Union calls strike and pickets Goff-McNair Motor Co., Green Chevrolet Co., and Lyle Bryan Motor Co. in Fayetteville for new contract.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 15, 1969 Eugene D. Glover, 46-year old Jonesboro native, becomes Seventh General Secretary Treasurer of the International Association of Machinists. He served from1969-1987 and was known for his ability to remain calm under stress and for his disarming sense of humor in negotiations.

September 15, 1942 Mrs. L.N. Grazler, owner of the Jonesboro Laundry, declared that she would not settle a strike by 18 women workers demanding time and a half on their 11 cent/hour wage when working more than six 8-hour days.

September 15, 1949 Federal Judge John Miller of Fort Smith rules that the United Mine Workers of America contract provision for a union shop is illegal in Arkansas mines and also voids contractual obligation of mine operators to pay delinquent debts to workers’ welfare and retirement funds.

September 15, 1999 Wal-Mart seeks injunction to restrain United Food and Commercial Workers union representatives from entering Wal-Mart stores for the purpose of distributing UFCW materials to workers, claiming it was an unauthorized trespass onto Wal-Mart property.

Friday, September 14, 2007

AFSCME's Arlene Holt is nominated for AFL-CIO Executive Vice President

President John Sweeney informed the AFL-CIO Executive Council this week that Linda Chavez-Thompson intendeds to step down as Executive Vice President of the Federation effective September 21st and that he intends to nominate Arlene Holt to fill the unexpired term of office for the next two years.

Arlene Holt Baker’s experience as a union and grassroots organizer spans over 30 years. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s she was a leader in California Democratic politics and worked as a union organizer and later international union area director in California for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

In 1995 Holt Baker went to work for the AFL-CIO as executive assistant to Linda Chavez-Thompson, and later became assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO. From September 2004 until January 2006, Holt Baker served as president of Voices for Working Families, a nonpartisan voter education and mobilization organization. She returned to the AFL-CIO in January 2006 and as assistant to president John Sweeney, she oversees the AFL-CIO’s Gulf Coast recovery efforts. She has exceptional leadership skills and will be a powerful advocate for working families and unions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brother Fillan Completes Steward Seminar

Fillan Ferguson-Rivers, Chief Steward of AFSCME Local 965, participated in the Stewards Seminar conducted by the UALR Labor Education Program this month. He was awarded a Continuing Education Certificate for the program that included sessions on the role and rights of union stewards, just cause for discipline, grievance investigation, and writing a formal grievance. Brother Fillan is a custodian at the University of Arkansas, and he holds a Masters in Public Administration degree from the institution. He will be conducting steward workshops for other members of AFSCME Local 965 later in the semester.

AFSCME on Strike at University of Minnesota

Labor Day has barely ended and we are already witnessing new examples of employer abuse. This time it’s the University of Minnesota, which refuses to give its nearly 3,500 clerical, technical and health care workers a decent wage increase.

Represented by AFSCME locals 3937, 3800, 3801 and 3260 (Minnesota Council 5), these hardworking members are now on strike. Picket signs went up across the university early Wednesday morning after frontline staff workers overwhelmingly rejected the administration’s meager salary raise offer.

Over the past five years, workers at the University of Minnesota have seen inflation steadily outpace their wage increases. Meanwhile, administrative salaries have grown an average of 27 percent. Unlike the University of Arkansas, faculty wages have grown by 19 percent. Learn more by watching this video.

Take a stand and support the workers – call the strike hotline at 612-234-8772 or visit the Local 3937 site for more ways to help.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Governor Beebe Appoints Sister Betty Martin

Governor Mike Beebe today announced the appointment of AFSCME Local 965 member Dr. Betty Martin to the new Governor’s Commission on Global Warming. Created by Act 696 of the 86th General Assembly, the Commission will study the potential impacts of climate change on the state’s environment and economy, and then recommend a global warming pollutant reduction goal and strategies for achieving it. Commission members include representatives from the state government as well as many groups including scientific, energy, forestry, agricultural, and environmental organizations, among others. The Commission must report its findings by November 1, 2008.

"Global warming is a growing concern that requires study and action on both state and federal levels," Beebe said. "This commission will give Arkansans our own perspective on the scope and potential impact of this phenomenon and recommend the best steps to take to protect ourselves, our environment and our economy for the future."

Congratulations, Sister Betty, on your appointment to this important state commission!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 6, 1961. Local 1282, Pool Arrangement, International Hod Carriers, Building and Common Laborers' Union of America, AFL-CIO, becomes signatory to contract for Titan Missile Project in Arkansas.

September 6, 1972. Searcy Mayor Leslie Carmichael cancels meeting and refuses to meet with Bob Allison, Local 1282 of the Laborers Union and bargaining agent for Searcy sanitation employees seeking medical benefits.

September 6, 2002. Rockline Industries fires David Keenan, organizing committee member in United Food and Commercial Workers Union effort to organize Springdale plant, for bringing a tape recorder to work.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 5, 1952. Sheetmetal Workers Local 249 stops work at the Pine Bluff Arsenal Nerve Gas plant until contract and job safety issues are resolved.

September 5, 1974. IAFF Local 34 Little Rock firefighters and their families begin informational picketing at City Hall to protest inaction of City Manager Carleton McMullin on their requests for cost-of-living adjustments.

Monday, September 3, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 3, 1948, Progressive Party Presidential Nominee Henry A. Wallace gives campaign speech at the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America (CIO) union hall in North Little Rock after being denied use of Robinson Auditorium, which prohibited meetings with racially integrated audiences, and prevented by Secretary of State C.G. Hall from speaking on the steps of the state capitol with Daisy Bates.

September 3, 1986, State Labor Director Dewey Stiles announced that Reynolds Metals Company and the United Steelworkers Union have agreed to negotiate on reopening of Reynolds plants at Jones Mills and Arkadelphia.

September 3, 1999, U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board ordered Beverly Enterprises to let federal officials review its records for compliance with affirmative action and equal employment laws at Ft Smith office.

Labor Day 2007

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 and became a national holiday in 1894, but sometimes we forget that it means more than just watermelon, barbecues, and beer. Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is a national celebration dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

We have set aside this day to honor the working men and women whose energy, talent, creativity, and determination are the foundations of freedom and prosperity enjoyed by generations of Americans and who fought to bring justice and dignity to the workplace.

Yet, we must not become self-satisfied or complacent. As we celebrate Labor Day, let us recommit ourselves to raising the minimum wage to a living wage, to promoting training and continuing education for workers, to providing affordable health care to every family, to organizing all workers, to demanding equal pay for women and fair pay for everyone, and to building a stronger national community.

We must continue to recognize the importance of maintaining dignity, securing economic justice in the workplace, making the American Dream a reality for all our people, and building a brighter future for our children.

The vital force of labor has brought us closer to the realization of our ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation and our state pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

September 2, 1919. Ozark coal miner T. J. Nelson killed when rock ceiling fell on him. Alix Coal Company denied any responsibility and contested judgment of $2,000 awarded widow and five children in Franklin Circuit Court.

September 2,
1935. Southern Tenant Farmers Union votes to strike for $1 per 100 pounds of cotton picked.

September 2,
1986. Three members of Local 2216 of the United Auto Workers union, injured while picketing against LTV in East Camden, file suit for damages against scab workers who drove cars through gates and rammed them.

September 2,
1998. Arkansas AFL-CIO pickets Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce seminar "Operating Union Free in the 21st Century" at North Little Rock led by Little Rock lawyer James W. Moore

Saturday, September 1, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

On September 1, 1914, Pete R. Stewart, President of District 21, United Mine Workers of America, was sentenced to 4 months in Sebastian County jail for contempt of court. His crime was making a rousing speech on May 26 at Hartford in support of striking miners of UMWA Local Union No. 1526, who had gone out when the Bache-Denman Coal Company announced it was breaking the union wage scale agreement and would run the Prairie Creek No. 4 mine with scab labor.