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