Monday, December 29, 2008

An Advocate for Shared Prosperity

Joe Diecedue of Conway, a state general agent for American Income Life Insurance Co., contributed this op-ed article in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It makes good sense, and we think it should be read by all middle class working families in Arkansas -- and their employers.

"It is an indisputable fact: Our economy is faltering. America's working people are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is disappearing.

Recently, President-elect Barack Obama said that now is not the time for small plans, now is the time for bold action to rebuild and renew America. I'm a businessman, and to me his words mean that we need to recreate shared prosperity for all.

I moved to Arkansas three years ago to run my own business. I was shocked at the lower wage scale and the number of hard-working families without health care. Arkansas' median income is $10,000 less than the national average. I see families every day struggling to get by.

And sure, we need an economic recovery plan that invests in roads, infrastructure and a green economy, but it doesn't end there. As a businessman, I see the best short-term strategic, sustainable solution as more local and immediate: paying workers higher wages that puts immediate money into the economy.

As an owner of a business with a unionized workforce, I am outraged at the attacks, including repeatedly in this paper, being made against those in organized labor and their allies in their efforts to reform labor law in this country. Historically, collective bargaining agreements have resulted in building a robust middle class with true shared prosperity.

Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act would want you to believe that the sky will fall if workers are given the free choice to decide on a union. Get real. The sky is already falling. Unfortunately, the sky is falling in on working families, not the CEOs and financiers who have made their hundreds of millions and created this mess.

Let me set the record straight on what the Employee Free Choice Act does.

First, it increases penalties for employers who break the law by firing or intimidating workers during the organizing process. Seventy-eight percent of private employers require supervisors to deliver anti-union messages to the workers whose jobs and pay they control.

Second, it guarantees that once workers decide to form a union, they will get a first contract. Currently, only one in three workplaces ever get a contract after deciding to form a union, and more than half of U.S. workers, nearly 60 million, say they would join a union right now if they could. This is an urgent crisis for workers, blocking their free will and their ability to get ahead.

Third, it gives workers, not companies, the choice about how they want to form a union-through majority sign-up or a so-called election where the company holds all the cards.

I think it makes sense for workers to choose how they want to form a union; after all, it's their organization.

Corporations give CEOs contracts that protect their pay and benefits, but they deny employees the same opportunity. As a result, good jobs are vanishing and health care coverage and retirement security are slipping out of reach. According to a recent survey, only 38 percent of the public say their families are getting ahead financially and less than one-quarter believe the next generation will be better off.

I am both a selfish and a smart businessman. I sell life insurance. If a family makes a decent wage and has decent benefits, then it can protect itself in all areas of life. Workers who belong to unions earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers. They are 62 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and four times more likely to have pensions.

The way I run my agency and create more jobs is like this. I want to have more workers making more money and in a position to buy life insurance to protect their loved ones. Greed is in all of our self-interest. When a worker does well, business does well. Business can sell and retain customers who can afford to pay. No one wins when everyone struggles.

It is not the time to pit worker against worker. It is wrong to begrudge a worker health care benefits or the promise of a small pension. We need to quit thinking small and start believing that all workers deserve a good job, good pay and good benefits. The Employee Free Choice Act puts away the small plans and will help recreate shared prosperity.

In a renewed America, shared prosperity is good for everyone"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Toys for Peace at Home Kids

This year's AFSCME Local 965 community gift is the toy drive for children who will be spending the holidays at the Peace at Home shelter. Gifts are being collected for children four years old and younger, and you still have time to contribute to the project.

Please bring age appropriate toys or a check to purchase toys to AFSCME 965 Secretary Theresa Sims by Monday, December 22. Give her a call at 575-3108 to drop off toys or a contribution.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hilda Solis Great Choice for Labor

President-elect Barack Obama today announced that he will nominate Congresswoman Hilda Solis as his Secretary of Labor. Solis is serving her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 32nd Congressional District of California. Prior to her election to Congress, Solis served eight years in the California state legislature. As a California State Senator, she led the battle to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996. In August 2000, Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues in California.

In accepting the nomination today, Congresswoman Solis said,
“I am humbled and honored to be nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as Secretary of Labor. As a daughter of immigrants raised in La Puente, a community near East Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, I learned from a young age the value of hard work, public service, and commitment to family.

“That is why I share President-elect Obama's belief in an America where if you work hard anything is possible. An America that values and rewards hard work. An America where we can both be standing on this stage today. But for too many Americans, that America is slipping further and further away.

“As Secretary of Labor, I will work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse workforce.

“I look forward to working with President-elect Obama to reinvest in workforce training, build effective pipelines to provide at-risk youth and underserved communities with sustainable skills, and support high-growth industries by training the workers they need.

“This includes promoting green collar jobs. These are jobs that will provide economic security for working families while securing our energy supply and combating climate change.

“We also must enforce federal labor laws and strengthen regulations to protect our nation's workers, such as wage and hour laws, and rules regarding overtime pay and pay discrimination. Through these and other efforts we can help strengthen one of America's greatest assets - its labor force."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UA Student Speaks for Economic Justice

Here in Fayetteville, most working people understand that the ability to come together to achieve better living standards and ensure certain fundamental rights sustains our middle class and drives our economy.

Individually, a single worker can’t provide for the national defense, promote the general welfare, or ensure that the basic human rights to a living wage and adequate education are met, but, collectively, citizens can come together and work with management and government to build on our history and move the nation forward.

Today, the majority of young Arkansans, and youth nationwide, understand the freedoms that are necessary to continue moving our country forward, especially at this time of transition towards an increasingly service based economy in which many of us will switch jobs several times over.

That’s why we support the right of employees to have a choice to enter or not enter into a union. The Young Democrats of Arkansas have endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act. We feel so strongly that our support is written into our Constitution.

Senator Blanche Lincoln’s recent statements about EFCA reveal the political reality of the time, but what of leaders whose courage and convictions stand the test of time?

What of the lions of yonder who led a chorus of thousands to fight off any and all assaults on the middle class?

In reality, The EFCA, often framed as taking away the secret ballot by ideologues who stick to talking points in the face of facts, still retains the option to engage in the current balloting process or adopt the more democratic and fair card check election process.

Sadly, some, possibly fresh with a press release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in hand, engage in ad hominem attacks and portray union leaders as intimidators or thugs.

While no one is perfect and we all sin every day, let’s take poisonous ideology out of the important public policy of growing our middle class and focus on real academic evidence and best practices.

The hard data is clear, almost all intimidation in union organizing drives comes from management afraid of union representation and the perception of lost profits that may ensue.

However, too many miss the reality that productivity and profit margins increase with better paid and better situated workers. The best human resource managers have always been willing to sacrifice a little in the form of higher wages for the returns that come back a hundred fold in better employees and production.

If grateful young Arkansans have learned anything from those that came before us, we know we must have the courage of our convictions to implement the common sense solutions our state so urgently needs.

Let us all pray that our leaders in Washington keep faith with Arkansas workers and seek the type of gratitude that stands the test of ages:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Guest Contributor

Christopher Burks

Christopher currently serves as President of the University of Arkansas School of Law Democrats and can be reached at

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Research Assistants Organize

In an action that could inspire UA graduate students, Research Assistants at the State University of New York Research Foundation at Stony Brook, N.Y., held firm against a strong anti-union effort to gain representation with Communications Workers of America Local 1104 on Dec. 5, reported District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton. The vote in the NLRB-sponsored election was 214-135 with 35 challenged ballots. Nearly 740 RAs are employed at SUNY's Stony Brook University campus.

The SUNY workers, all doctoral students, are seeking better pay and benefits and fairer treatment from a university administration that has continually claimed that it could not afford to pay them a more livable wage. The RAs are particularly aggrieved over a $500 transportation and technology fee that the institution charges them each semester – a fee that has been waived for graduate and teaching assistants at Stony Brook, who were already represented by Local 1104.

"It doesn't sound like a big deal, but for a lot of RAs making $20,000 a year, $1,000 is a lot," RA Matt Engel, a member of the organizing committee, told Newsday following the victory. "Basically, there has never been a negotiated raise for RAs ever," he said.

Local 1104 represents more than 4,000 graduate and teaching assistants at Stony Brook and in the SUNY system.

Though affiliated with the State University of New York, the privately-managed Research Foundation resorted to captive audience meetings, one-on-ones, and other tactics to squash the RAs' campaign. Management also sought to delay or even block the election by challenging earlier NLRB decisions that allow research assistants the right to organize.

University of Arkansas Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants are eligible for membership and are welcomed in AFSCME Local 965

Blanche Lincoln Votes NO

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas was one of five Democrats to vote against consideration of the bridge loan to the auto industry. She ignored the plight of thousands of Arkansas workers who manufacture parts for American vehicles and who are in danger of losing their jobs.

If auto workers who are members of the UAW worked for nothing, they could not save auto companies that face a devastating cash crisis in our deep national recession. Yet Blanche Lincoln a handful of Republican senators were so determined to cut workers’ living standards and scapegoat the auto workers union that they were willing to block the bipartisan proposal for a bridge loan to the American auto industry and play Russian roulette with our economy. That is outrageous. This group of minority senators failed to act as stewards of the American public.

Millions of jobs are at risk. According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, 3.3 million jobs across all 50 states and all sectors could be lost – on top of the 1.9 million jobs already cut by employers this year – if one or more auto companies fail.

Misinformation about auto workers’ livelihoods has been spread throughout this debate, Even so, the UAW was prepared to make further sacrifices, just as the auto companies had done, not only to save the industry but prevent economic collapse. But nothing would satisfy the ideologically motivated Republican senators, who saw no reason to impose salary concessions when bailing out the banks.

We cannot boost the economy by legislating a race to the bottom or attacking decent jobs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worker Rights are Human Rights

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, and all across the country local union members like you made a strong statement about the importance of workers' rights.

Despite being the world's wealthiest country, the United States still lags far behind in protecting the ability of workers to organize. Around the world, more than 70 other countries provide a fair way for workers to form a union. The United States isn't one of them.

The Communication Workers of America, represently local AT&T employees in Northwest Arkansas, is leading a powerful mobilization effort today to change that by making sure that Congress is ready to move forward on Employee Free Choice Act, a crucial bill that would allow workers to organize free of employer intimidation. It's up to us to make sure this legislation makes it through the United States Senate with strong support.

You can make a real difference by calling our Senators right now and urging them to support the Employee Free Choice Act. Here are their names and phone numbers:

Blanche Lincoln:

(202) 224-4843

Mark Pryor:

(202) 224-2353

And here is an example of what you can say to the person who answers the phone:

"Hello, my name is __________ and I am one of the Senator's constituents. I'm calling to ask the Senator to stand with working Americans by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. This bill will help protect workers' rights and strengthen the middle class. Will the Senator support this legislation?"

Please be part of today's mobilization effort. Call your Senators, and then click here to let us know you called:

This legislation is the single most important way to protect workers from companies who intimidate, mislead, threaten, and even fire their employees during the organizing process. The bill would let workers choose between a vote and a simple majority sign-up system to decide on having union representation in their workplace, and restoring fairness to a system that has been dominated by employers for far too long.

Workers' rights are human rights. We’re counting on you to help U.S. workers make their voices heard.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama Backs Union Workers

Obama: Laid-Off Workers Occupying Factory in Chicago Are 'Absolutely Right'

By Abdon Pallasch, The Chicago Sun-Times

Note: About 250 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday, saying they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay, while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.

President-elect Barack Obama put himself on the side of the workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory Sunday:

“When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” Obama said Sunday at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.

“When you have a financial system that is shaky, credit contracts. Businesses large and small start cutting back on their plants and equipment and their workforces. That’s why it’s so important for us to maintain a strong financial system. But it’s also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren’t just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they are designed to get money out the doors and to help people on Main Street. So, number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned their benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments.

“Number two, I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so we are not seeing these kinds of circumstances again,’’ he said. “Have we done everything that we can to make sure credit is flowing to businesses and to families, and to students who are trying to get loans? And to homeowners who have been making payments on their homes but are still finding their property values so depressed that it becomes very difficult for them to make the mortgage payments?

“That’s where the rubber hits the road and that’s going to be the central focus of my administration.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Buy American and Save Jobs

It's never been more important to support America's workers and our economy by using your holiday shopping dollars for union-made-in-the-USA gifts for your family and friends. What better way to share your values and demonstrate your commitment to helping rebuild the American economy than to buy 100 percent union-made gifts?

The Union Shop Online has an extensive collection of clothes, games and books for kids, tons of great stocking stuffers and holiday cards galore. Thank you for your support and activism over the years, and America’s workers thank you for buying union-made in the USA.

Not sure what your uncle/sister/brother in-law likes? How about getting them a Union Shop Online Gift Certificate?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Are Things for You?

We want to hear from you. Please take our very brief member survey about the economic crisis.

In the past month, President-elect Obama has made signing an economic recovery bill his top priority once he takes office. AFSCME believes that aid to state and local governments must be a cornerstone of the economic recovery package that Congress and the new administration will put forth in the coming weeks.

We must protect jobs and the vital services AFSCME members provide. You can help.

How are you feeling about what's happening in Arkansas with you and your family? Where you work? Let us know here.

As public service workers, AFSCME members know first hand that when local and state government budgets are squeezed, services become harder to provide.

  • Rhode Island has cut health care coverage for 1,000 low-income parents.
  • New Jersey has cut funds for charity care in hospitals.
  • And Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are just some of the states where funding for K-12 education is being dramatically cut.
What's worse: The need for the services and programs that state and local governments provide continues to grow while their ability to meet this responsibility shrinks.

We're collecting information about how the state and local budget crises are affecting AFSCME members on the job and off the job. Please take our quick member survey to let us know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vote Jordan in Mayoral Runoff

We have endorsed Lioneld Jordan for Mayor of Fayetteville, and we encourage our members and all friends of working families to return to the polls to support him in the runoff election.

Early voting at the Courthouse starts tomorrow, Tuesday, November 18th, from 8:00 am until 4:30 pm, on weekdays. The election is Tuesday, November 25th, at the same polling places for the general election earlier this month, from 7:30 am until 7:30 pm.

Please make sure that your friends and family members in Fayetteville return to the polls to vote for Lioneld Jordan.

We are pleased that AFSCME 965 endorsed candidates Marilyn Edwards (Washington County Judge), Candy Clark (JP District 5), Jim Nickels (Arkansas House District 43), and Jim House (Arkansas House District 89) were all elected on November 4th. Lindsley Smith (House District 92) and Barbara Fitzpatrick (JP District 7) were elected without opposition.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mayor Coody's Dishonest Campaign

Old-fashioned attacks and fear-mongering have entered the campaign for Fayetteville mayor. The Northwest Arkansas Times has an article today about two former mayoral candidates and a state legislator endorsing Alderman Lioneld Jordan for Mayor in the November 25 run off election. They give more column inches to incumbent Mayor Dan Coody fabricating fears than to the endorsements.

Here's the section on Coody's attacks:

“I know Lioneld would make a radical change in direction that I don’t think would be positive for the city,” he said. Coody said he thinks the city’s fire and police departments will likely become unionized if Jordan is elected. The city of Fayetteville must maintain control of its own taxes, revenue and budget, he said.

“If police and fire unionize, they’ll have the ability to do collective bargaining,” he said. “It would eventually have to extend to all 730 city employees. We don’t want to take the lead of so many other cities that are declaring bankruptcy to meet union demands.”

Jordan refuted the mayor’s claims, saying he has no intention of unionizing the city.

“I’ve been on City Council for eight years. I’ve never brought any labor legislation forward, and I don’t intend to,” he said. “I’m not running for mayor to unionize the city; I’m running for mayor to properly manage the city, which is what it needs right now.”

Earlier Alderman Jordan told the Fayetteville Flyer blog, "It is unfortunate that campaigns are sometimes mired by unfounded rumors and negative attacks. Even good people say foolish things when they become desperate in political campaigns, and that is not limited to some of the wild charges being made in the presidential campaign....

"After I was endorsed by the Fayetteville Firefighters Association and the Fayetteville Fraternal Order of Police, one of the candidates started saying that I had made some secret promises and was plotting a union takeover of city government. That is ridiculous. I am proud to have been a member and officer of my union at the University of Arkansas for more than a decade. During my eight years on the City Council, I have always been an advocate for the interests of working families, and I will continue to be when I am mayor. You can count on it. But never have I made any attempt as an Alderman to unionize city employees, because I do not think it is appropriate for elected public officials either to encourage or discourage public employees from exercising their constitutional rights to join a union if they choose. Our dedicated city employees deserve fair treatment and fair pay, and I will always listen to the ideas, concerns, and suggestions of all employees and deal with them in good faith."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

AFSCME Says "Yes We Did!"

Statement of AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee on the 2008 Election

— Throughout this extraordinary campaign, Barack Obama challenged us to believe that we have the power to change America, and to change the world. On Election Day, America responded to his challenge with a resounding “Yes We Can.” As a result, we can now begin the urgent work of rebuilding the middle class at home; restoring America’s reputation in the world; and transforming our government into a vibrant force that solves problems, stands with American families and empowers people and communities to improve their lives.

Americans voted for a new direction because this country is in crisis: Two wars that are costing lives and draining the treasury of badly needed resources; an American middle class at risk in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; a broken health care system that wreaks havoc on families, overwhelms government budgets and makes businesses uncompetitive; retirement security gone by the wayside; and a state and local fiscal crisis that is crippling the ability of government to meet the ever-increasing demand for vital services.

This election was about hope and unity. In response to an Administration that has told Americans “You’re on your own” for the last eight years, voters have said “No we’re not. We’re in this together.” Americans have voted for a president and a Congress that will rebuild government in the public interest and make it a force for creating opportunity and prosperity, supporting and protecting our families, and strengthening our communities.

With Barack Obama, we will have a president who values the workers who make America happen at home and defend it abroad. Along with a Congress that supports us and with historic gains at the state and local level, we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of America’s working families.

With Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we will have a team of proven fighters committed to providing state and local fiscal relief, fully funding and supporting public services and the workers who provide them, and guaranteeing that everyone in our country has quality, affordable health care they can count on.

Over the past year, as I met with working families across the country, one could see that people were yearning for change. I can’t begin to describe all the disappointments they’ve had over the last eight years of a rigged economy that has favored the privileged and left the rest of us behind.

What they experienced, however, didn’t destroy them. It motivated them to work like never before for change. More people than ever got involved through the AFL-CIO’s political program, the smartest, biggest and broadest effort we’ve ever run. We put 250,000 union volunteers into action, combining cutting-edge voter communications with massive grassroots strength. Our people created the largest, most efficient independent voter mobilization initiative in American history.

We knocked on 10 million doors, made 70 million phone calls, and distributed more than 27 million workplace flyers focusing on economic issues. AFSCME alone spent $67 million on political activities, including our aggressive independent expenditure campaign which played a key role in the most competitive House and Senate races. Forty-thousand AFSCME members volunteered along with more than 500 staff because we all knew we could not afford four more years like the last eight.

Among union households in battleground states, there was clear momentum for Obama on the eve of the election. What moved people? The issues, and talking to workers one-on-one. For example, in Pennsylvania, polls showed Barack Obama gained 22 percent since August for a 63% - 27% advantage going into Election Day.

Tuesday’s election was a mandate for building an America that lives up to its ideals, an event that has broken down old barriers and opened up new doors. As we celebrate this victory, we also face monumental challenges as a country. Working families are ready to join with President-elect Obama to meet these challenges and enact a bold agenda for change.

Related: AFSCME Campaign 2008 By the Numbers

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lioneld Jordan for Mayor

AFSCME Local 965 is pleased to endorse Lioneld Jordan for Mayor in the General Election on November 4, 2008. Both Steve Clark and Walt Eilers demonstrated a broad understanding of issues important to working families and were generally supportive of the positions of our union. Nonetheless, Alderman Jordan’s voting record on key issues, his eight years experience in city government, and an even longer time advocating the interests of University faculty and staff on campus and with the state legislature, earned him the unanimous endorsement..

Dan Coody did not respond to our candidate questionnaire.

After reviewing the records of candidates and the responses to our candidate questionnaires, for the first time in our 46 year history, we were unable to reach a unanimous decision on endorsements for City Council candidates Don Conner, Brenda Thiel, Mark Kinion, Matthew Petty, Craig Honchell, Sarah Lewis, and Bernard Sulliban. All seven of the candidates for the three positions were very impressive, and each displayed a strong commitment to protecting the rights of public employees, supporting a living wage for working families, expanding public transportation, promoting affordable housing for low and middle-income families, and seeking to make our system of taxation more equitable. Our members and the other citizens of Fayetteville will be well served by whomever is elected to represent Wards 1, 3, and 4.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Endorsed County Candidates

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 965, representing faculty and staff employees at the University of Arkansas since 1962 is pleased to endorse the following outstanding slate of candidates for Washington County offices in the General Election on November 4, 2008.

Washington County Judge: Marilyn Edwards

Justice of the Peace, District 5: Candy Clark

Justice of the Peace, District 6: Barbara Fitzpatrick

After reviewing the records of candidates and the responses to our candidate questionnaires, we are confident that these outstanding candidates share our commitment to protecting the rights of public employees, supporting a living wage for working families, expanding public transportation, promoting affordable housing for low and middle-income families, and seeking to make our system of taxation more equitable.

Political action is the lifeblood of our Union: it is the way we elect our bosses, affect public policy, and hold elected officials accountable. We recommend that our members actively campaign and vote for the endorsed slate.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Labor Supports the United Way

United Way and organized labor work together to solicit contributions from workers through payroll deduction, which account for approximately two-thirds of the funds that United Ways raise each year. Through the Labor Letters of Endorsement Program of the Department of Labor Participation, the AFL-CIO president asks presidents of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions, state federations and central labor councils to send letters endorsing United Way campaigns to their memberships. The Labor Letters of Endorsement Program encourages individual union members to volunteer their time and contribute their resources to United Way campaigns.

AFSCME Local 965 is an active participant in the University of Arkansas effort to solicit support for the United Way and the services that it provides to organizations in our community. Please give as generously as you are able in these difficult and uncertain times.

Organized labor is also part of the decision-making process at United Way of America. Currently, there are four AFL-CIO representatives serving on United Way of America's Board of Trustees, with two of them on the executive committee. There are four union trustees in the volunteer structure of United Way International. Unfortunately, the United Way of Northwest Arkansas has not invited any representatives of local unions to serve on its board, but we remain hopeful that the organization will someday recognize the contribution to be made by the hundreds of union members in Washington and Benton Counties.

In other areas of the nation, the United Way works with local unions to train union members to assist co-workers and their families with information about available local services and to refer them to the appropriate organizations; to recruit, train and help place members of organized labor on the decision-making bodies of health and human-service organizations; and to recognize labor leaders who have rendered outstanding United Way volunteer service by annually awarding the Joseph A. Beirne Community Services Award.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jim Halsell for School Board

AFSCME Local 965 has unanimously endorsed Jim Halsell for Fayetteville School Board. You can learn more about Jim and his outstanding record of public service at his website

Jim supports building a world-class high school on the current campus that is centrally located and convenient to UA staff, students, and faculty. In addition, he is the only candidate for the position to use a union printer for his campaign signs.

Early voting for the Fayetteville School Board election began today, September 30th. You can vote in the County Clerk 's Office between 8:00 and 4:30 on weekdays until next Monday, October 6th

Election Day is on Tuesday, October 7th, at the polling place.

This is an important election for all working families in the Fayetteville School District . Please vote in this important election and make sure that your friends, family, and neighbors do, too.

All registered voters can vote in this run-off, even if they were unable to vote in the first election.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Green Jobs Now!

AFSCME Local 965 was represented at the Green Jobs Now! rally on the Fayetteville square yesterday. We recognize that nationally the economic, energy, and climate crises we face are all connected, and we argued that Green Jobs can help solve all three, because changing patterns of employment and investment resulting from efforts to reduce climate change and its effects are already generating new jobs.

We also know that many of these new jobs can be dirty, dangerous, and difficult. For example, in the recycling industry, all too often low pay, insecure employment contracts, and exposure to health hazardous materials need to be addressed and changed fast. Green jobs need to be decent work that pays a living wage, and strong unions can help assure that.

There are millions of people ready and willing to work and countless jobs to be done that will strengthen our economy at home. There are thousands of buildings that need to be weatherized, solar panels to be installed, and wind turbines to be erected. Renewable energy generates more jobs than employment in fossil fuels. A program to retrofit homes can create quality jobs and put energy bill savings back in the pockets of working families.

One of the best things about green jobs is that they're domestic jobs that strengthen our national and local economy. Green jobs like installing solar panels, assembling wind turbines, cleaning up brownfields, and weatherizing buildings can't be outsourced overseas. We should be able to count on our elected officials at all levels to support and finance green job training programs and sustainable economic development initiatives in Northwest Arkansas.

It is disappointing that the joint effort by the University of Arkansas and the City of Fayetteville to spend $150,000 to create an economic development plan for our city ignores the workforce that will be performing the Green Jobs of the future. The hired consultants will be here next month to interview University administrators, bankers, business owners, city officials, and Chamber of Commerce officers. They have scheduled no time to talk with workers or local labor organizations. It will be the usual top-down and generally unsuccessful plan that ignores the interests and ideas of workers in our local economy.

Meaningful social dialogue between government, workers, and employers will be essential to support better informed and more coherent environmental, economic and social policies, but all social partners must be involved in the development of such public policies. Any realistic plan for a Green Jobs economy can only be deployed effectively with qualified entrepreneurs and skilled workers participating in that process from planning to production. It will be successful only with joint labor-management initiatives to create green workplaces and green work products, so workers deserve and expect a seat at the table when our tax dollars are invested in building the local economy. It is unfortunate that those behind the current planning process ignore workers and their organizations and pretend that the employees who would hold Green Jobs have nothing to say worth their time to listen and consider.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

War on Working Families

Why do right-wing commentators get to say it’s class warfare to suggest that wealthy people should pay more in taxes?

I’ll tell you what’s class warfare.

It’s class warfare to pass two sets of massive tax cuts that benefit mostly the wealthy as President Bush did during his first term. These two frontal assaults on working folks, transferred almost $100 billion to the top 1 percent, while helping to turn a $5.1 trillion 10-year federal budget surplus into a $3.7 trillion deficit. This devastating debt is already a crushing burden on future generations of average taxpayers.

It’s class warfare for presidential candidate John McCain to propose making the Bush tax cuts permanent — a coup de grace for struggling Americans who already saw the median household income go down from 2000 to 2007.

It’s class warfare to give big business executives taxpayer subsidies totaling more than $20 billion per year that in truth encourage unlimited pay packages.

It’s class warfare to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act as both President Bush and Sen. McCain do. This law would begin to bring a small amount of power balance back into the workplace by making it a bit easier than it is now to form a labor union. Further, it would compel mediation and arbitration if management and the union don’t agree on a contract in 90 days.

It’s class warfare to oppose increasing the federal minimum wage as both President Bush and Sen. McCain have, when inflation-adjusted wages for most workers have grown only 7 percent from 1979 to 2007. By 2006, when a proposed increase was last voted down, the value of the minimum wage had fallen to its lowest level in over 50 years.

Extreme inequity is bad for a democratic society. Disagree with the idea if you want to, but spare us the offensive rhetoric. Average Americans are on the front lines of the real class war and have been losing long enough.

Adapted from “The Truth about Class Warfare,“ by Bob Keener, communications director for United for a Fair Economy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wall Street Bailout

JOBS WITH JUSTICE has something to say about the $800 Billion Corporate Welfare scam and is asking for your help.

Over the past 30 years, conservatives successfully gutted regulation and preached 'smaller government' while millions of Americans lost good jobs and Wall Street and corporate America made record profits. Wall Street invented new, more complicated ways to make money off other people’s money

Now that the party’s over, Bush & Co. want to plunder the rest of us to pay the bill for Wall Street’s greedy rampage.

Tell Congress: Stop the Bail-out; Pass a recovery plan instead

Now that they’ve made so much money, they say that the huge Wall Street firms, paying grotesque salaries, are "too big to fail," so a quick-fix blank check is making its way through Congress.

Apparently, conservatives think our health care crisis isn't big enough to fix (and it would certainly take less than $700 billion). Apparently, the loss of millions of good jobs due to so-called 'free trade' is not a big enough crisis to fix. The disaster from Hurricane Katrina was not big enough to fix, and New Orleans could be left to fail. The looming pension crisis and the affordable housing crisis -- none of these, apparently, deserves a bail-out.

For conservatives and financial elites, when working class people face a crisis, plants close or health care costs triple, the system is working. They take all the private profits, but when the bubble bursts, and they can no longer sustain their profiteering rampage... well, they're too big to fail. And who pays the bill? The CEOs are telling Congress to send the bill to working people – the very people who have been forced out of their housing, out of their jobs, out of their healthcare and out of their pensions by Wall Street’s greed.

Call and write. Time is short.

Click here to write, and call your Representative and Senator through the Capitol Hill switchboard - (202) 224-3121 - to tell them:

1) No Bail-out for Wall Street. They had their fun, now they deserve the hang-over.

2) Don’t be panicked by the very people that caused the crisis. Take the time to develop a REAL recovery plan for our economy that puts people first, by addressing foreclosures, jobs, affordable housing, pensions, infrastructure and health care.

3) Restructure our financial systems, with renewed public oversight, to meet the needs of our entire economy, not just the finance sector, and end the excessive political clout of these few firms.

4) Bring in fair taxation, honoring work over wealth, and stop subsidizing excessive CEO salaries.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Your Congressperson
Your Senators

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Stop the Bail-out; Pass a recovery plan instead.

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

I am appalled at the proposed bail-out of Wall Street, the very people and firms whose reckless behavior, combined with 'anything goes' deregulation and the housing price bubble, created this disaster in the first place.

Strong government action is definitely needed, but the Bush administration's plans are entirely wrong-headed. The proposals to 'fix' Wall Street, like the entirely inadequate foreclosure fix, prop up private profits without helping average Americans or the economy as a whole. It's time for a new regime that puts family security before the securities industry, and uses public power and resources to benefit the public interest.

I ask you to commit to the following:

1) No Wall street bail-out. It's wrong-headed and bails out the CEOs who got us in the mess, not the working people suffering the consequences of bad economic policy.

2) Take the time to craft a real recovery plan for our economy, a plan that puts people first and addresses our multiple economic crises, including good jobs, affordable housing, health care, retirement security, infrastructure, and disaster relief (e.g. Katrina).

3) Restructure our financial systems, from the Federal Reserve on down, re-establishing public oversight, preventing the predatory practices and establishing public alternatives to the reckless privatized system that brought us this crisis. Prevent the victims of predatory lending from losing their housing. Restrict lobbying by the financial sector.

4) Establish fair taxation that honors work over wealth, including the establishment of taxes on financial transactions, ending subsidies to excessive CEO pay and offshoring, ending the tax system that taxes earned income more than unearned income, and establishing a progressive inheritance tax.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fayetteville School Board Election

Early voting for the Fayetteville School Board election begins tomorrow, September 9th. You can vote in the County Clerk's Office between 9:00 and 4:30 on weekdays until next Monday, September 15th

Election Day is on Tuesday, September 16, at the polling places listed below.

AFSCME Local 965 has unanimously endorsed Jim Halsell for Position 1. You can learn more about Jim at his website

We also recommend James McGinty for Position 2. His website is at

Both endorsed candidates support building a world-class high school on the current campus that is centrally located and convenient to UA staff, students, and faculty.

Both candidates use union printers for their campaign signs.

This is an important election for all working families in the Fayetteville School District. Please vote in this important election and make sure that your friends, family, and neighbors do, too.

VOTER INFO: The 9/16 school board election is an at-large (districtwide) election. There are eight polling places; you must vote at "yours." Go to, click "search your polling place," and select "Washington School Election 2008" (about 1/5 of way down list) to find yours!
Northeast Baptist Church (2578 Oakland Zion Road)
First United Presbyterian Church (695 Calvin)
Goshen Community Center
Covenant Church (4511 W. Wedington)
Wiggins Methodist Church (205 West Sixth Street/Martin Luther King Blvd)
Trinity Methodist Church (1021 W. Sycamore)
Sequoyah Methodist Church (1910 Old Wire Road)
Central United Methodist Church (6 W. Dickson Street)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bush's Dreadful Labor Legacy

The Department of Labor in the Bush Years: A Damage Assessment
By U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA)

For millions of Americans there was little cause for celebration this past Labor Day. While workers' wages have fallen, the cost of living has skyrocketed, the unemployment rate has soared, fewer workers have health coverage, and good retirement plans are increasingly scarce.

Nearly a century ago, Congress established the federal Department of Labor to be the advocate and champion for working Americans. Specifically, the department was created to advance three core goals: "to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment."

However, under the Bush Presidency, these goals -- and the interests of workers -- have been under direct assault.

From day one, Bush's Department of Labor has actively worked to undermine workers' rights to organize, to fair pay and decent benefits, and to safe working conditions -- rights that are essential to growing and sustaining a strong middle class. U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and other high-level appointees came to their posts determined to weaken the agency.

Under Chao's leadership, the department has repeatedly torpedoed rules designed to help workers. One of her first actions was supporting the repeal of a rule that would have protected workers against repetitive motion injuries, the leading cause of workplace injuries.

Chao went on to severely weaken the department's Wage and Hour Division -- which enforces overtime, minimum wage, and child labor laws. Wage theft has skyrocketed at the hands of this administration: An ongoing U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation has uncovered repeated cases where the agency refused to go after scofflaw employers who admittedly owed their workers back wages.

Chao also consistently refused to support increasing the minimum wage, allowing it to erode to its lowest value in fifty years. It wasn't until Democrats took over Congress in 2006 that the minimum wage was finally raised for the first time in ten years.

Time and again, Chao has proven her loyalty to a different constituency. She has expended boundless energy making sure unscrupulous employers have a ready supply of exploitable labor. Just recently the department proposed new regulations that will cut the prevailing wage rates for agricultural guest workers and make it easier for employers to hire cheaper, temporary guest workers from overseas instead of qualified, available American workers.

And while the administration dragged its feet to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, it moved quickly to slash wages for Gulf Coast workers in the hurricane's aftermath.

After President Bush tapped a mine executive to lead the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, the agency immediately set about withdrawing vital proposed health and safety rules. By the time a slew of mining accidents hit in 2006, nearly 200 staffers had been cut from the coal mine safety enforcement division alone -- a move that helped cripple the agency. When Congress finally acted in the wake of many tragic miner deaths, MSHA acted with little urgency to implement the law. More recently, when the House of Representatives passed additional much-needed mine safety protections, the administration threatened a veto.

It's the same story with Chao's U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Remarkably, the agency has not approved a single new health standard for workers in eight years, aside from one that was ordered by a court. Even in the face of solid scientific evidence documenting workplace dangers, Chao has turned a blind eye to growing health and safety risks.

Take, for example, the department's failure to address hazardous combustible dust. In 2006, the Chemical Safety Board -- an independent government agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents -- reported that a string of deadly explosions caused by combustible dust are a serious and preventable national problem. Although the CSB urged OSHA to quickly issue a new safety standard, Chao refused -- and continued to refuse even after a sugar dust explosion killed 13 workers last February.

The tragic results of the department's fatal failure to act continue to mount -- on crane and construction safety, popcorn lung disease, silica, beryllium and more. And in one of its most telling -- and insulting -- moves to date, the department is now rushing to enact last minute "secret rules" that would make it even harder for health and safety agencies to issue future protections for workers and that would jeopardize workers' retirement savings.

Our nation's workers, battered by unfair global competition, stagnant wages, declining benefits, and poor employer compliance with labor laws, deserve a Department of Labor that lives up to its name, led by individuals who believe in its mission.

A Secretary of Labor that actually fights to help and protect hard working Americans -- now that would be a reason to celebrate.

Congressman George Miller is a leading spokesman in Congress on education, labor, and the environment and has represented the 7th district of California since 1975.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day 2008

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.