Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 30, 1990. United Steel Workers union representatives confirm that Aluminum Company of America will close the ore-refining part of its Benton plant in June and shut down the only commercial bauxite mine in the country.

Monday, January 28, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 28, 1899. John Gabsky, 11, killed while working in Kansas & Texas Coal Company's Mine No. 51 near Huntington, in violation of Miners' Act that no one under age of 14 shall be permitted to enter any mine to work.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 26, 2006. Arkansas Supreme Court rules injured sawmill worker Ricky Wallace is due Workers' Compensation for injuries suffered on the job. West Fraser South, Inc had delayed his medical payment four years by denying his claim and appealing the award since injury sustained at its non-union sawmill on February 5, 2002.

January 26, 1923. Dewey Webb, 18-year old boy, testifies in Little Rock before Legislative Joint Committee about being beaten by members of the "citizens committee" in Heber Springs for having expressed sympathy with union workers on strike over wage cuts by Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad.

January 26, 1925. Lessie Reed editorial in Fayetteville Democrat commends the Arkansas legislature for being among first three states to have ratified the proposed federal Child Labor Amendment, critiques the flawed arguments of corporate opposition, and urges resistance to forces attempting to rescind ratification in current session.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Appeals Court Upholds AFSCME Benefits

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit today upheld the award of benefits for members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2957, which was compelled to sue the city of Benton after the City Council voted to breach the collective bargaining agreement and discontinue medical retirement benefits promised to retirees and to reduce benefits included in the union's contract with the city.

Terry White, President of Local 2957, said, “The city promised us something that they wanted to take away. I hate that the city had to spend all that money fighting something that they had agreed to give us.”

AFSCME Local 965 member Jim Nickels was the attorney representing the union and three retired employees who won their case last February. In reviewing an earlier ruling, Nickels noted that the court ruled that “the city had entered into a contract and was bound by the contract. Basically, this was an attempt by the City Council to take away those contractual benefits, and the court ruling says this action is null and void.”

“When those employees worked, they provided their end of the bargain,” Nickels said. “The city promised they would have health insurance when they retired and that the city would pay for it, but the city reneged on the promise.” The rulings of the court, Nickels said, are based on “if you make a promise, stand by the promise.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 24, 1931. Pulaski County Sheriff Blake Williams arrests Frank Brown and Dominic Zini in North Little Rock for "inciting a riot" by distributing handbills announcing a meeting of the United Farmers League.

January 24, 1991. Morrilton Plastics Products Inc. announces it intends to close its car parts plant at Augusta after only four years and lay off 160 union workers. The company had been given $675,000 in state and local corporate welfare as “incentives” to build and equip the Woodruff County plant in 1987. There were no provisions requiring company to pay back the taxpayers.

January 24, 1995. Wal-Mart "Associate" Patsy Woods sustains head injury when case of ArmorAll fell off high shelf. In 1998 Wal-Mart denied her any additional medical treatment for the injury, claiming that any further medical bills were unreasonable; Appeals Court finally order Wal-Mart to pay for the medical expenses in 2001, after delaying payments for thre years.

January 24, 1950. Chancery Judge C M Wofford finds 25 UMWA coal miners in contempt for violating injunction by picketing against open shop at strip mine operated by Utah Construction Company near Ozark.

January 24, 1949. After three years, Arkansas Supreme Court reverses permanent injunction against picketing by Local No. 98, Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America, Little Rock.

January 24, 1923. Legislative investigating committee concludes that C E Gregor, lynched by committee of Harrison businessmen, had no part and was not involved in incidents related to damage of railroad bridges that had angered local businessmen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 23, 1923. Samuel L. Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, issues statement demanding that Arkansas authorities take action to protect striking railroad workers and their families from lynching and mob action near Harrison.

January 23, 2006. Kenneth Hall, spokesman for the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn't know if the state Chamber will formally oppose effort to raise the state minimum wage above $5.15 an hour, but says, "we do have an obligation to protect the business environment."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Community Service Awards for 2007

Lioneld Jordan, Community Service Committee Chair of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 965, today announced the winners of the Community Service Awards for 2007.

“Just as AFSCME faculty and staff at the University of Arkansas are in the public service, we appreciate and wish to recognize others who significantly contribute to improving the lives of working families in our local community,” Jordan said. “It is in that spirit that we are pleased to announce the annual Community Service Awards for 2007 and to express our deep appreciation for these individuals who make a difference. In different but important ways, each has done much to make our community stronger, and our lives are richer for their public service. We congratulate them, and we thank them.”

Electronic Media: Richard Drake
Community Access Television and Street Jazz Blog

Local Government: Nancy Allen
Fayetteville Ward 2 Alderman

Neighborhood Advocate:
Aubrey Shepherd
Branch Neighborhood, Fayetteville

News Reporting: Adam Wallworth
Arkansas Times

Opinion Column: Lowell Grisham
”Roots and Wings” in the
Northwest Arkansas Times

Public Education: John Colbert
Holcomb Elementary School

State Government: Lindsley Smith
Representative, House District 92

University Community: Bernard Sulliban
Non-Traditional Student Leader

Theresa Sims, Local Secretary of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees said the honorees will be presented with their awards within the next few weeks. Previous AFSCME Community Service Award winners include Doug Thompson, Jim Bemis, Jeff Erf, and Karla Bradley.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exploiting Faculty and Cheating Students

University of Arkansas students are getting a raw deal. The problem is they're taking too many classes from part-time or adjunct professors. About half of the nation's college faculty members are now on part-time contracts. Adjuncts are cheaper for colleges, but they often lack the time and resources for focused teaching, and research shows students' performance can suffer if they are taught by these part-time wage slaves too often.

University of Arkansas faculty members are getting a raw deal, too. The excessive reliance on part-time faculty at the University of Arkansas threatens a basic principle of educational quality, namely, that a corps of full-time permanent tenured faculty should be in charge of the academic curriculum and teaching most of it. That is of little concern to UA administrators, who have reduced the number of full time faculty on this campus while hiring more high paid administrators and low paid adjunct faculty.

In a report just last month, a 30-member commission called for New York's SUNY and CUNY systems to alleviate the over reliance on adjuncts by hiring 2,000 more full-time faculty. Of course, the University of Arkansas could cut back on using adjuncts and pony up for better wages and more full-time jobs, but that would reduce money available for creating additional administrative positions for educational bureaucrats at much higher salaries.

AFSCME Local 965 supports the principle of equal pay for equal work for all workers, and we are committed to the principle of equal pay and benefits for equal work for part-time faculty with equivalent qualifications and experience. As we approach the 2008 legislative elections and the 2009 legislative session, we will mobilize at all levels through organizing and public policy advocacy to end the UA administration’s financial and professional exploitation of part-time faculty at the University of Arkansas.

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 21, 1935. All-white jury at Marked Tree finds organizer Ward H. Rodgers guilty of anarchy for remarks he made in a public speech to integrated audience members of the Southern Tenant Framers' Union urging them to resist exploitation by the planters of eastern Arkansas.

January 21, 1907. Arkansas Supreme Court reverses jury judgment against Patterson Coal Company for damages to United Mine Workers of America union coal miner injured when mine ceiling collapsed. The court found that Patterson failed for a week to provide props as required by law, but the court said that miner's request for the necessary props showed he knew there was a danger and therefore had assumed risk for his own safety.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 19, 2006. U.S. 8th Circuit Court reinstates case against Wal-Mart for excluding union members from employee benefit plans and ignoring NLRB order to rescind the clause and post notices to employees.

January 19, 1953. Arkansas Supreme Court holds that union members striking against Dixie Cup in Fort Smith had an obligation to obey injunction even an if it was an erroneous decree by Sebastian Chancery JudgeC. M. Wofford, who jailed the union's international representative Charles Stewart for criminal contempt and fined local president Allen Jones and six other members.

January 19, 1923. Citizens Committee at Heber Springs flogged young boy and ordered him to leave town for expressing sympathy for striking railroad union.

Rally for Collective Bargaining Agreement

AFSCME Local 2704 members will be holding a rally on Tuesday, January 22, at 6:30 p.m. The rally will be held on the west side of the Hot Spring County Courthouse and the front side of the Hot Spring County Solid Waste Authority (230 West Second Street) in Malvern.

The Hot Spring County Solid Waste Authority has had a surplus of nearly $3.5 million in recent years, but it refuses to sign their Collective Bargaining Agreement on wages and benefits for waste management employees represented by AFSCME Local 2704.

All union members and local citizens concerned about fair wages and employment practices are urged to attend and show support for the employees.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Celebrating the Dream of Dignity

The AFL-CIO will hold its 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance on January 17–21 in Memphis, Tennessee, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers' strike. This strike involved hundreds of men who dared to take a stand for dignity and respect on the job by seeking a voice at work with AFSCME Local 1733. The strike also marked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final campaign. He was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 while supporting these striking AFSCME workers.

Wages and working conditions for Memphis sanitation workers were atrocious. The average pay was $1.80 an hour, so low that forty percent of the workers qualified for welfare and many worked second jobs. They lifted leaky garbage tubs into decrepit trucks and were treated unfairly. During foul weather, black workers were sent home without pay while the white workers were paid a full day. There were neither benefits, vacation, nor pension. Martin Luther King, Jr.came to Memphis to support our AFSCME brothers and sisters and to plead the justice of their cause.

In Memphis, the labor movement will come together to remember Dr. King and the sanitation workers strike. We will join with our allies at the observance to advance the agenda for civil and workers’ rights and to carry on Dr. King's legacy through a program of education and community service.

The AFL-CIO Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance weekend will begin on Thursday, January 17 at noon and will end on Monday, January 21 following the morning MLK parade. Friday, January 18 will be a day of commemoration and reflection on the Memphis Sanitation Workers courageous strike. On that day we will also engage in political training to prepare ourselves for the important 2008 elections. Saturday will be dedicated to community service.

Another Arkansas Worker Killed on Job

Sylvester Jackson, a worker at McAlister Grain in Helena-West Helena, fell to the surface of the stored grain in a company grain bin about 11 a.m. as he tried to fix a clog. He was trapped there for eight hours before rescue teams said the pulse they had detected during the rescue efforts faded and stopped about 7 p.m. last night.

Jackson, 42, was pastor of the Church of God in Christ in Holly Grove. He had worked at the grain plant for 20 years.

Jackson is the third worker to be killed on the job in Arkansas since Christmas. Brandon Johnson, 30, was crushed to death December 28 at the non-union Gibbons Steel in Armorel, and Christopher Herron, 19, was killed by an exploding dump truck tire at Kinder Morgan in Hickman on December 30th.

"An Injury to One Is an Injury to All."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 16, 1923. During strike against Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad that had tried to cut wages by 20 percent, a Citizens Committee vigilante mob of businessmen and hired gun thugs lynched railroad union member C. E. Gregor at Harrison; raided union hall and burned furniture in public square; publicly whipped George O'Neal for expressing sympathy with the strikers. No one ever arrested.

January 16, 1936. Deputy Sheriff Hood and other law officers break up meeting of Southern Tenant Farmers Union at St. Peter's Church in Crittenden County and shoot two members.

January 16, 2002. Six North Little Rock women filed a federal lawsuit accusing Koppers Industries of underreporting amount of toxic chemicals it releases, violating the Community Right-to-Know Act and the Clean Air Act.

Monday, January 14, 2008

James "Brownie" Hill (1930-2008)

Brother James "Brownie" Hill died at his home on Saturday. Services will be held at l0:30 a.m. Tuesday at Richland Baptist Church. Brownie was a founding member and former Vice President of AFSCME Local 965, and he represented our local on the Board of AFSCME Arkansas Council 38. He is survived by a son, Paul Hill, and a daughter, Joni Jongewaard, both active leaders in Local 965.

Brother Brownie retired from the University of Arkansas Physical Plant after 46 years of service, and he served with the United States Army 936th Field Artillery Headquarters Battery during the Korean War.

Sister Betty Martin, Vice President of Local 965, said, "Brownie was such a great union leader and a true friend. He was so caring, compassionate, and trustworthy; an amazing person. I can't say enough to totally describe Brownie Hill. Mark and I were so fortunate to have known him and counted him as our friend for 35 years. We will all miss him.”

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Washington Regional Hospice, 34 Colt Square Suite 1, Fayetteville, AR 72703.

The photograph above was taken at the Red Cross building after the Local 965 community service project to rehabilitate the offices in 1974. Brownie Hill is the third man in a white shirt from the right, next to Local 965 President Fount Frederick (with open jacket). Click on photograph to enlarge.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 13, 2003.
St. Vincent Health in Little Rock recognizes and agrees to bargain with Local 22 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, representing the hospital's nurses union.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

AFSCME Informational Picket

The Little Rock Local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union is planning an informational picket in front of the Little Rock City Hall on Tuesday, January 8 at 5 p.m., immediately before the City Board meeting.

Jim Nickels of AFSCME Council 38 said the decision to protest came after talks with the city “didn’t go anywhere.” Negotiations have stalled on whether the city should allow non-uniformed city employees who get fired the same appeals process currently afforded police officers and firefighters.

“If an employee gets fired,” Nickels said, “the appeals process for a non-uniformed city employee stops with the city manager. For the police and fire, it goes to the civil service commission, so they have an outside entity looking at the decisions. We don’t have that… they don’t have to, so they don’t want to.”

Ricky Belk of the Arkansas AFL-CIO has issued a call to all local unions. “We need as many people with Labor as possible to come and support our union brothers and sisters.”

Friday, January 4, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 4, 1905. Father Thomas J. Hagerty of Van Buren, former editor of the American Labor Union Voice of Labor, is one of the drafters of the Industrial Union Manifesto adopted in Chicago.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Everyone Wins with "Green Jobs"

Will Tanzman has a fine essay online at AlterNet about the late great Tony Mazzocchi, who was a leader in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union and the movement to make industrial production less harmful to workers and the natural environment. Below is an exceprt:

In the last 10 years, labor-environmental alliances have experienced an upswing. In 1999, thousands of union members and environmentalists came together to fight the World Trade Organization on the streets of Seattle. A coalition of labor unions and environmentalists created the Apollo Alliance in 2004 in order to promote a national program of "green-collar jobs" that will protect the environment and decrease the United States' reliance on imported oil. The Apollo Alliance was joined in early 2007 by the Union Sportsman's Alliance, a coalition of conservationists and unions with members who hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors. In addition to these national efforts, a number of local organizations, coalitions and government agencies have kicked off "green jobs" programs of various sorts.

The work of these alliances is important because it addresses one of the most penetrating criticisms of the environmental movement: the charge that environmentalists ignore human needs. According to this critique, environmentalists are willing to throw thousands of workers out of jobs in order to save an owl that doesn't particularly matter in the grand scheme of things. The fact that many working-class Americans believe that environmental protection is not in their self-interest is a major obstacle for successful environmental regulation. Fortunately for both the environmental movement and workers, economic justice and environmental protection don't have to be mutually exclusive. Every worker deserves a good job, but there is no reason that job shouldn't be in the field of building renewable energy infrastructure, improving energy efficiency in houses and offices or running public transportation. The strength of the green jobs movement is that it is committed to promoting economic justice by creating precisely that set of jobs and ensuring that these jobs provide living wages and decent benefits.

Because of significant clashes between labor and environmental groups in the 1980s and '90s around logging, industrial emissions and auto-efficiency standards, many people are unaware of the long history of labor-environmental partnerships. Fortunately, a book was published last month that reminds us of some important moments in that history. The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: the Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, by Les Leopold, is the inspiring story of a union leader who was a pioneer in labor-environmental coalition-building.

During more than five decades in the labor movement from the 1950s until his death in 2003, Mazzocchi was a key leader in the movement to make industrial production less harmful to workers, residents of the communities surrounding factories and the natural environment. [read more]

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mike Huckabee Crosses Picket Line

Former Governor Mike Huckabee, running for the Republican nomination for President, showed his true colors today when he crossed a picket line in California so he could be on the Jay Leno Tonight Show.

After cheap talk earlier today saying he supported the writer's strike, he took the first opportunity to cross the picket line to get his face on television. When called on the hypocrisy, he tried to claim that the television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America West had settled with late night television shows. After reporters twice called him on that lie and told him he was wrong, Huckabee just said, "Hmmm. Oh." He still crossed the picket line.

This came as no big surprise to those of us in Arkansas. Mike Huckabee has never been a friend of organized labor or working families, even going out of his way to attack public school teachers who had endorsed his opponent. Guaranteed dues checkoff for city and county employees in our state did not get enacted until after he left office.

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

January 2, 1953. National Labor Relations Board rules that Arkansas Gazette does not have to rehire 31 editorial and circulation employees who had been replaced during a 1949 strike.