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!