Friday, November 30, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 30, 1999. AFSCME Local 965 protests 10% hike in health insurance costs and challenges University of Arkansas administrators to try living on worker wages for just two weeks. Challenge is not accepted.

November 30, 2006. Express Forestry Inc. of Leslie and officers, Rick and Sandy Thomas, agree to pay $220,000 to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project for unpaid wages to Guatemalan guest workers hired to plant trees.

Carpenters Union Opens NWA Office

AFSCME Local 965 welcomes the Arkansas Regional Council of Carpenters, which once again has a home in Northwest Arkansas. The union has opened a 1,500-square-foot office and 3,500-square-foot training center at 5375 Hailey Avenue in Springdale, to better serve the area, where it anticipates more jobs to fill.

“The only challenge we have is finding enough people to man the jobs that we have,” said Dennis Donahou, executive secretery-treasurer. He said that the office will help serve the 100 or so members in the area and will offer a place to train people interested in joining the union. Union members in the area are working primarily on commercial projects, such as the baseball stadium in Springdale and the new hospital in Rogers. He said that he anticipates the need for well-trained carpenters will continue to increase in the area, and the union will provide a means of developing them.

People interested in joining the union can stop by the office and talk to a business representative and file an application. “We’ll put you out to work as quick as we can,” Donahou said. People with experience will be sent out to jobs at the level they’re capable of, while people with no experience will be able to enter an apprenticeship program. He said that the goal is to bring apprentices and unskilled laborers up to speed as journeyman carpenters as quickly as possible, because there is a market for the type of skilled craftsman that can be found in the union ranks. “We bring a well-trained and better-paid work force,” he said.

The Regional Council represents more than 2, 000 professional carpenters and millwrights in the two states, and is backed by a $ 100 million annual training budget of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, which helps facilitate training centers throughout the coverage area of Local 71.

For more information about the council, go to, or contact the local office at 717-2437.

Thanks to the Northwest Arkansas Times for covering an important story about the opening of a union office and providing information about job opportunities for skilled union labor in Northwest Arkansas. It is a welcome development.

Health Care Costs Hurting Working Families

Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, released a report that shows that more than 680,000 people in Arkansas under the age of 65 will spend more than 10% of their pre-tax income on health care costs next year. It also projected that 220,000 people will spend more than 25% of their income on health care, and most of those people have health insurance.

“It’s having a dramatic impact on them, on the economy and the quality of life we want people in Arkansas to have,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). Programs like ARKids First, supported by the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Fund) help working families have greater access to health care, particularly for children, and it’s important to keep funding them, Lincoln said.

A proposal recently passed by Congress and supported by all Democratic members from Arkansas to reauthorize and expand SCHIP from an average of $5 billion a year to approximately $12 billion yearly over the next five years was vetoed by President Bush. Our own Rep. John Boozman (R-AR3) voted against funding children's health care and supported the Bush veto.

Rep. Marion Berry ( D-AR1) said the figures in the report are disturbing. “The good news is, we pretty well know how to fix this and I think we can fix this,” he said. “It may take a new Congress and new president, and we’re going to get that.”

Rhonda Sanders, director of health policy and legislative affairs for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the report echoes what the agency is hearing every day from families struggling to afford health care. “Getting the SCHIP reauthorization through is a critical piece in funding health care for children,” she said. “I do think Arkansas has opportunities to increase the availability of great programs like ARKids First,” she said. “There are 70,000 children with no health care coverage."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

AFSCME Local 965 wishes you and yours a warm and safe Thanksgiving holiday. We are grateful for our members and for all the friends of working families in our community.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Protest Rally Tuesday Against NLRB

On November 20th at 3:00 p.m., after the Labor 2008 Coordinators meeting in Little Rock, we are requesting that everyone join us in a protest at the regional Labor Board office, saying the Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has abandoned its mission of protecting workers’ rights, and instead is catering to corporations. The protestors will point to a recent downpour of 61 unexpected rulings in September, saying the majority of the decisions roll back workers’ rights. They will call for the Labor Board to be closed until it is more balanced. Similar actions are happening in 13 cities nationwide, including at the NLRB headquarters in Washington, DC.

“It’s time the National Labor Relations Board is closed for renovation. Working men and women are gathering at Board offices across the nation today to say the Board should shut down until we can be assured that there is a measured, fair-minded National Labor Relations Board in place to protect worker’s rights,” said Jim Nickels of Arkansas AFSCME Council 38.

Some of the recent decisions make it harder for workers to form a union through majority sign up, make it harder for workers who are illegally fired to recover back pay, and make it easier for employers to discriminate against union organizers.

The November 20th event in Little Rock is part of a nationwide week of action to raise awareness about the decisions and the threat to workers’ freedom to form and join unions. Events will take place in 13 cities with thousands of workers participating across the country.

Who: Workers, community leaders and members
What: Regional Labor Relations Board office
When: November 20th, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: 425 West Capitol Ave., Suite 1615
Little Rock , AR 72201-3489

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 14, 1966. Arkansas Supreme Court holds University of Arkansas cannot be sued for violation of state labor law on behalf of 68 women workers at University Food Service who were required to work in excess of 8 hours/day without overtime pay. In August 1965 Bill Laney, as Commissioner of Labor of the State of Arkansas, had filed the suit against the UA Board of Trustees for violation of the wage and hour laws enacted to protect workers, but the University argued that it was immune from lawsuits in state courts.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

November 5, 1905. Birthdate of Theodore McNeal at Helena, Arkansas. Vice President of International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Our Presidential Endorsement

Yesterday, our union announced its support of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for President of the United States.

AFSCME's International Executive Board overwhelmingly voted to endorse Senator Clinton following an extensive 10-month, member-driven endorsement processincluding candidate appearances, interviews and membership polls. These polls showed that Senator Clinton enjoys deeps support among AFSCME's members. We looked for the candidate who will fight the hardest for working families and who has the greatest ability to win -- and the candidate who will motivate our members to make more calls, knock on more doors and talk to their co-workers like never before. We believe Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for our members and for America.

We had the most talented and diverse field of Presidential candidates we've seen in years. But when all was said and done, among our members Hillary Clinton clearly emerged as the best candidate to take back the White House for America's working families.

When Senator Clinton accepted our endorsement yesterday, she made it profoundly clear that she understands the importance of the work AFSCME members do day in and day out and committed to stopping the attacks on public services that our entire nation has suffered from under the Bush administration. This is what she said:

"I'm going to start reversing the outsourcing of our government...There are now more private contractors being paid with our tax dollars than there are civilian and military employees combined...We’re going to begin to take our government back and put it back in the hands of the American people for a change."

No matter how you look at it, Hillary Clinton stands out. She stands tall. And she stands with us. As our President, Hillary Clinton will help rebuild America's middle class and make sure that everyone shares in our country's prosperity. Now it's up to us to help make that happen.

AFSCME takes pride in being the most effective political force in the American labor movement. AFSCME members are more than just voters. You are messengers and activists, comprising a powerful grassroots network of volunteers and opinion leaders. When inspired by candidates who stand strongly for working families, AFSCME members can make the difference in close elections.

In 2008, it is our goal to double our volunteer army. Together, we will elect Sen. Clinton, increase the Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House, and influence key gubernatorial contests, state legislative races and ballot initiatives. I hope that each and every one of you will be a part of this historic effort.

You can take the first step by signing up to volunteer. Just go to our special volunteer sign up form and someone from our Political Action department will be in touch with you. Click here to volunteer.