Monday, April 28, 2008

Workers Memorial Day

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. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more are injured or diseased because of their jobs. AFSCME Local 965 and the unions of the AFL-CIO remember these workers on April 28, Workers Memorial Day.

The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at worksites recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Trade unionists around the world now mark April 28 as an International Day of Mourning.

Workers Memorial Day 2008 Materials

Here are some other ways we honor workers who have been killed or injured on the job:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bush Cuts Hurt Laid-Off Arkansans

Federal cuts threaten to harm efforts to help laid-off workers in Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe says. “The timing of this rescission couldn’t be worse,” Beebe said. “Amidst predictions of national economic downturn, the federal government cuts the very kind of work-force development that is vital to spurring the economy.”

A spokesman for the U. S. Department of Labor’s regional office in Dallas, Diana Petterson, declined to give reasons for cutting $4.3 million from the funds the state receives to train workers. “The rescissions were passed by Congress and the bill was signed by the president,” she said.

U. S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said the White House supported the cuts over objections from the Senate. “The buck stops at President Bush’s doorstep in regards to job-training cuts,” Pryor said. “It is amazing how out of touch the president and his administration are with working Americans. In addition, this year the president is asking for an additional $474 million cut in [work-force services nationwide], and we will strongly fight him on this.”

Pryor said the cuts weren’t in the original Department of Labor appropriation passed by Congress, but Bush vetoed it. The Senate then passed another appropriation bill without the cuts, but the House inserted them with White House support, Pryor said.

Beebe said Washington’s priorities aren’t straight. “The moneys depleted for these work-force-development programs in Arkansas could be paid for by what we are spending in Iraq in the next 24 minutes,” Beebe said. “I support our troops; that is not an issue. But the Bush administration is rescinding funds for programs that help our returning veterans get job skills to re-enter the work force, helps workers who’ve been laid off gain new skills for new jobs, and helps the underemployed and unemployed obtain better jobs and get off taxpayer assistance.”

Beebe said the federal government’s move rescinds money already committed by the state. That’s money, for instance, aimed at paying for dislocated workers taking classes at community colleges since last fall, said Artee Williams, director of the Workforce Services Department. He said the money is meant to help his agency respond when there are massive layoffs at a plant or when a plant burns down, similar to what happened with a Cargill meat-processing plant in Booneville earlier this year.

Excerpted from Seth Blomeley, “State Warns Cuts May Hurt Jobless,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 26 April 2008.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Picnic This Saturday!

AFSCME Local 965 will be hosting our annual Spring Picnic on Saturday, April 26, at Agri Park in Fayetteville. Please come and bring the family and fellow employees who might be interested in joining. We'll have hamburgers, hot dogs, fellowship, and fun for the whole family between 10 am to 2 pm.

We have also invited our brothers and sisters from other union locals in Northwest Arkansas, so it should be a great event. This is the weekend of Springfest and the Dickson Street Music Festival, so add this event to your list from The Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

April 23, 1936. LaFollette Senate Subcommittee exposes F. A. Roszel, secretary of local union at Hartford, as paid labor spy and undercover operative for Corporations Auxiliaries Company of Atlanta.

April 23, 1936. Robert B. Watts, general counsel for National Labor Relations Board, testified before U S Senate subcommittee that he had been forced out of Arkansas when he tried to hold a hearing on labor practices.

April 23, 1985. United States Supreme Court ruled that employees of the Alamo Christian Foundation are covered by federal labor laws, even if they are "volunteers" and don't want to be paid wages for working.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today is Equal Pay Day

In 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, women continue to earn only 77 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts. To match men's earnings for 2007, women have to work from January 2007 to April 2008 — an extra four months.

In recognition of this inequity, Equal Pay Day will be celebrated on April 22, 2008. At the University of Arkansas we recognize Equal Pay Day, but AFSCME Local 965 does not celebrate it. More than a year ago, we asked Chancellor John White to address the documented disparity between salaries for male and female professors. He has done nothing to significantly reduce this inequality.

Pay equity is the achievement of the appropriate recognition, status and value for the work performed by women and people of color. Work value is reflected in the wage rate. But pay equity is more than money.

Achieving pay equity for all women is a long-term goal and there are a variety of ways to get there. As a resident of our local community you are the expert on what strategies may work in Arkansas right now.

GOP Blocks Tribute to Labor Hero

From rural agricultural fields to urban centers across this nation, Cesar Chavez's legacy has been profound. As the leader of the most successful farm workers union in American history, he made sure those who brought the food to the tables of America were treated with dignity and paid a fair wage. Quite simply, hundreds of thousands of Americans would not have access to health care, would not have the right to unionize, and would be far more likely to eat foods doused in pesticides if it were not for his lifetime of service

To mark what would have been Chavez's 81st birthday on March 31, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus, as well as members of Congress unaffiliated with either, devoted time to praise Chavez in the halls of government. Across the country, 65 cities in over 30 states are holding formal celebrations, and 10 states have declared statewide holidays.

The only people who refuse to celebrate, it seems, are some members of the Republican Party.

In an outrageous move, Senate Republicans blocked a resolution recognizing Chavez's life and work. They quietly blocked the resolution using parliamentary procedure, and gave no reason for doing so. Their votes implied that a man who Robert F. Kennedy called "one of the most heroic figures of our time" is not worth honoring, even with a symbolic gesture.

Unfortunately, this kind of insensitivity is part of a broader pattern in the Republican Party, a pattern of actions that is at odds with the values that Latinos hold dear.

Whether it has been blocking health insurance for children, voting against the rights of workers to organize for better wages, stopping comprehensive immigration reform, or preventing Latinos from attending college or joining the military if they are undocumented, even if their parents brought them to the United States in a stroller, Republicans have repeatedly acted against the interests of the Latino community.

If the Republican Party hopes to gain the respect of Latinos, as voters and as citizens, a good first step would be honoring one of the community's most legendary figures.

They will have another chance to do so; a resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives urging the creation of a national holiday celebrating his life, and encouraging public schools to teach about his work. (Not one House Republican has yet seen fit to announce their support.)

Whether or not we can ever come to agree on policy, we should never have to disagree about the accomplishments of this remarkable American hero. His life is not a political issue; it is a national inspiration.

The resolutions introduced in Congress are not just about honoring one Latino, they are about honoring the values, history and contributions of the Latino community. Can we build a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress strong enough to recognize those values and that history?

In the words of Cesar Chavez, "¡Sí Se Puede!"

U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, a Democrat from California, is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, is a member of the caucus. This is an excerpt from their article posted on Alternet, April 22, 2008.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Call Our Senators Today!

Call our senators toll-free, today at 866-338-1015, ask for Senator Lincoln, tell the aide who answers that you want Senator Lincoln to vote FOR the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Call again for Senator Pryor.

H.R. 2831 is an important legislative "fix" to a May 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.), which severely limited the ability of victims of pay discrimination to sue and recover damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without this "fix," the impact of the Court's decision will likely be widespread, affecting pay discrimination cases under Title VII involving women and racial and ethnic minorities, as well as cases under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bush Guts Arkansas Workforce Training Funding by $4.3 Million

The Bush administration dealt a “staggering blow” to Arkansas’ economic development efforts by taking back $4.3 million in money already allocated for workforce training programs, Gov. Mike Beebe said yesterday.

The move by the federal Department of Labor rescinds funds for the Workforce Investment Act by $250 million nationwide. Rescission of the funds, which are vital to spurring the national economy, could not come at a worse time, Beebe said, with many economists saying the nation is experiencing a recession and predicting tougher times ahead.

“Who was thinking about the plight of the laid-off worker in Searcy or the 18-year-old high school graduate in Stuttgart when bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., decided to pull back support for workforce development?” Beebe said in his weekly radio address, which blasted the Bush administration.

Almost all of the money being taken back was already obligated for training contracts with colleges and other institutions to help unemployed and underemployed Arkansans get jobs, Beebe said. Some of the money was committed six months before word of the rescission, the governor said.

On Thursday, the Department of Workforce Services and the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board began presenting reduction amounts for the 10 Local Workforce Investment areas across the state. Three programs at each center — the adult service, the youth service, and the dislocated worker service — will be affected. Those services provide training, as well as support services, like transportation and child care.

Local workforce offices could be temporarily shuttered or their employees could be laid off for an indefinite amount of time, Beebe said. He said he anticipated more than 1,900 people will either receive fewer benefits of none at all, and some locations will no longer provide summer youth-employment programs, which aim to get kids off streets and into careers.

“It will certainly impose a long-term, negative impact on the confidence of workers, employers, and potential employers in workforce-development programs all across
Arkansas,” he said.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Resolution on University Budget Priorities

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 965, debated and adopted the following Resolution on University Budget Priorities during the regular monthly meeting on April 17, 2008. Copies have been transmitted to UA administrators, the Board of Trustees, local news media, and the membership for further consideration in making funding decisions for 2008-2009 and during the preparation of the budget to be submitted for the next biennium.

Resolution on University Budget Priorities

WHEREAS, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees on March 28, 2008, approved a five percent increase in student tuition, said by Chancellor John White to be primarily needed to pay for higher operating expenses and to provide competitive faculty salaries, and an additional fee dedicated specifically to campus facilities needs, including major projects and deferred maintenance for such things as roofs, elevators, fire safety equipment and code compliance; and

WHEREAS, Chancellor-designate David Gearhart has said of his priorities, “Faculty and staff salaries must be at the top of our list if we are to remain competitive in the years ahead. It may be fair to conclude that we have built the university on the backs of our faculty and staff. Salaries run anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent below the market;” and

WHEREAS, the University of Arkansas, already underfunded by $40 million annually, is likely to face a significant cut of approximately $4.7 million in state funding in the 2008-2009 fiscal year based on state revenue figures released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and such a cut would pose a potential threat to some university programs and is likely to significantly curb or eliminate the University's ability to meet its obligation for cost-of-living salary increases to faculty and staff in the coming year; and

WHEREAS, the recently completed study of "space utilization" of classroom space on campus found that of the nearly 400 classroom spaces available on campus, the campus-wide utilization rate is less than 20%, suggesting that the current classroom space could easily accommodate enrollment of 40,000 students, and a Facilities Management report to the Faculty Senate in March determined that our peer institutions do not build or expand physical space until the average is 60-70% space utilization; and

WHEREAS, in 1997, the University of Arkansas carried approximately $32 million in bonded indebtedness, with payments of about $7 million a year, the massive building program on campus in recent years led to $312 million in bonded indebtedness in 2007, with payments of approximately $36 million a year out of the University’s budget; and

WHEREAS, University administrative officers are considering further increasing student tuition and bonded indebtedness by an additional $60 million plus interest for 30 years to purchase unneeded buildings and property owned by the Fayetteville School District;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, representing University of Arkansas faculty and staff, requests that the University devote the limited state revenues and student tuition and fee income to meeting the critical needs of the institution, including adequate funding for existing academic programs and competitive faculty and staff salaries, instead of misdirecting scarce financial resources to acquire additional real estate and buildings for which no need has been nor can be demonstrated.

Approved this 17th day of April, 2008.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Balancing Work and Family

The Washington County League of Women Voters will explore balancing work and family in a forum set for 6 p. m. today at the Fayetteville Public Library.

The panel discussion about family work policies in Northwest Arkansas will feature Missy Leflar, Human Resources Division manager for the city of Fayetteville; Bernice Hembre, owner of Terra Tots Natural Parenting; and Cindy Paladino, corporate human resources manager for J. B. Hunt Transport.

The group will discuss formal and informal family-friendly programs at their organizations and the challenges to offering innovative options for families. The panel will be moderated by Local 965 member Dr. Janine Parry, associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas.

Monday, April 14, 2008

National Library Workers Day

In order to recognize the hard work, dedication, and expertise of library support staff and librarians that the Tuesday of National Library Week be designated National Library Workers Day; and, that on that day, interested library workers, library groups, and libraries should advocate for better compensation for all library workers and, if the day coincides with National Pay Equity Day, these individuals, groups, and libraries should recognize both days together.

Tuesday, April 15, is National Library Workers Day. AFSCME Local 965 recognizes the hard work, dedication, and expertise of library support staff and librarians at the University of Arkansas. They provide valuable knowledge and services to the faculty, staff, and students on our campus, and we stand with them for the fair compensation and benefits they deserve.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

April 9, 1948. Six faculty members in Department of Psychology and Philosophy resign from UA over poor pay and general dissatisfaction with the institution.

April 9, 1921. Governor Thomas McRae refuses request by union officials to conduct inquiry or otherwise intervene after Citizens Committee at Harrison forces railroad strike leaders to flee the state.

April 9, 1951. Arkansas Supreme Court holds that United Brick and Clay Workers Local 602 pickets against Acme Brick in Malvern is not an illegal secondary boycott against MoPac.

April 9, 2000. Wal-Mart "Associate" Woodrow Swaim breaks bone in foot while pulling loaded pallet. Wal-Mart refuses tp pay his Workers Compensation claim. Court of Appeals eventually rules for Swaim's estate in 2005.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

President McEntee on King's Legacy Today

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee issued the following statement on the anniversary of the 1968 AFSCME Sanitation Strike in Memphis and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Forty years ago this week in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in solidarity with 1,300 AFSCME sanitation workers – workers denied their rights as free men and city employees. Forty years after the historic events in Memphis, we honor the man and the vision best by taking action to achieve a better America.

“Dr. King’s dream inspires our fight against an intolerant administration that puts profits before people, that rewards wealth instead of work. We have suffered under it for more than seven long years. We must end the nightmare and build the dream. We must create an America where opportunity is abundant and prosperity is shared. We must create an America that lives up to its ideals.”

Click here to view the video on Dr. King and the 1968 AFSCME Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis.