Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tulsa Employees Join AFSCME

The 800 office-technical and administrative-technical employees in Tulsa, Okla., now have a voice on the job after joining AFSCME Local 1180.

Says Laureen Gilroy, who works in the city’s Public Works Department:

Forming a union is our legal and democratic right, and we decided to exercise that right. Having a union means that we can work to improve conditions on the job and give employees a voice at work.

A majority of the employees submitted union interest ballots to the state’s Public Employees Relations Board this month. State law allows municipal employees in Oklahoma cities with populations of more than 35,000 to form unions.

Local 1180 President Mark Stodghill said he is proud to have the employees join the union.

They have gone much too long without a strong, organized voice in the workplace. Now it’s time that the union members of this new unit all roll up their sleeves and get their first contract to cement their rights as employees represented by a union.

The new union members join the city’s 911 operators, airport police and municipal labor and trades employees as members of Local 1180.

All state, county, and municipal employees in Northwest Arkansas are eligible for membership in AFSCME Local 965. For information on joining or assistance in organizing your workplace, send an email request to the Arkansas Public Employees Union

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ask a Working Woman

Do you love your work but hate your job? Do you have ideas—big or small—about how to make things better? It’s time for working women to sound off about what would make their work lives easier.

AFSCME Local 965, the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate, Working America, want to know what it’s like to be a working woman in America this election year. If you’re a working woman, please take a moment to complete the 2008 Ask a Working Woman survey.

We’ll pass the results on to politicians, women’s rights and labor organizations who will use them to advocate for women across the country over the next two years.

So click here now to take the survey. It is short, easy (we promise) and will serve as an invaluable tool for moving working women’s issues into the national dialogue.

If you’re not a working woman, forward this e-mail to your sister, your mother, your co-workers and your friends to make sure their voices are heard.

Send the survey to a working woman you know and make sure her voice is heard.

Thanks for helping lead the way for women in the workplace. Together, we can make lasting change.

In support of working women everywhere,

AFSCME Local 965 and the Working Families e-Activist Network,

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Unions Help Women with Caregiving Responsibilities

As people are discovering the challenges of balancing a career with caregiving responsibilities, unions have stepped up to help, Women’s eNews reported. The programs and benefits offered by unions are appealing to women, as they provide assistance that makes managing both a career and a family possible. Some unions have a child and elder care fund and monthly health care allocations, which members fund themselves and have access to if needed. Even more, they provide benefits regarding paid and unpaid leave that go beyond those required by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. While President Bush has proposed changes to the FMLA that would restrict it, both Sens. Clinton and Obama have made it clear that they would like to extend the benefits of the act to companies with only 25 employees, as opposed to 50. Some predict that over time more unions will follow the example set by such unions as UNITE HERE Local 2, Cleveland Teachers Union Local, and California State Employees Local.

The American Association of University Women believes that creating work environments that help employees balance the responsibilities of work and family is good public policy—good for workers, good for families, and good for business. AAUW’s 2007-2009 Public Policy Program supports greater access to benefits that provide such an environment. To read more on AAUW’s position regarding the workers’ benefits and the FMLA, read their position paper on family friendly workplaces.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Young Workers, New Attitudes

Two new reports show today's young workers are being squeezed by high costs of living and low or stagnant wages, and they want the government to do more to solve this nation's economic mess.

The Economic State of Young America by Demos presents a statistical study of the economic condition of young workers, and The Progressive Generation: How Young Adults Think About the Economy by the Center for American Progress (CAP) analyzes public polling of young workers. Click here for a copy of the Demos report and here for the CAP report.

The two reports paint a picture of young workers who are faced with a combination of declining incomes, growing debt, high costs of education, homeownership and health care. In fact, say the reports' authors, this generation of young workers could be the first not to surpass the living standards of their parents.

One key finding is that young workers understand the role of unions in building economic and political strength to make changes in public policies and the workplace. In the CAP study, young workers gave unions an average ranking of 60 on a 0-to-100 scale (with 0 indicating a negative view and 100 being a positive view), the second-highest level of support of any age group in the more than 40 years the question has been asked.

The authors of the two reports say the problems of young workers will have an impact on public policy for years to come. Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, says:

Young people today are being hit with a one-two economic punch. For this generation of young workers, the economy no longer generates widespread opportunity and security, and our public policies haven't evolved to pick up any of the slack. In fact, many of the problems we see today are a direct result of a disinvestment in the policies meant to ensure that the opportunity ladder is firmly in place.

David Madland, director of CAP's American Worker Project, says:

Young adults today think that the government can be a force for good in the economy, and that increased investments in healthcare, education, and other areas are necessary to ensure strong and sustainable economic growth. The progressive economic views of this large and politically active generation of young adults is likely to have a profound impact in 2008 and into the future.

Here is a snapshot of young workers culled from both reports:

  • No matter what their level of education, incomes have declined for most young workers. The only young workers whose income rose between 1975 and 2005 were women with a college degree. Their incomes rose 10 percent, while incomes in all other education groups fell or remained stagnant.
  • Even though their wages are declining, young workers' debts are rising. The average college graduate has a nearly $20,000 debt; average credit card debt has increased 47 percent between 1989 and 2004 for 25- to 34-year-olds and 11 percent for 18- to 24-year olds.
  • Although more than half of women with a child under age one are in the labor force (up from 31 percent in 1976), public policy supports for young families are still lacking. Only 39 percent of women received paid maternity leave. Child care is expensive. Full-time care for a toddler ranges from $3,794 to $10,920 annually, while full-time care for an infant rages from $4,388 to $14,647 annually. In every region of the country, child care for two children exceeds the median rent and is as high or higher than the median monthly mortgage payment.
  • Not surprisingly, young workers are more likely to support universal health coverage than any age group in the 30 previous years the question has been asked, with 57 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds saying that health insurance should come from a government insurance plan.
  • Another 87 percent think the government should spend more money on health care even if a tax increase is required to pay for it, the highest level of support in the question’s 20-year history.
  • An overwhelming 95 percent think education spending should be increased even if a tax increase is required to pay for it, the highest level ever recorded on this question in the 20 years it has been asked.
  • And 61 percent say the government should provide more services, the most support of any age group in any of the previous 20 years the question has been asked.

From: "Young Workers, Positive About Unions, Face Economic Squeeze," By James Parks, AFL-CIO

James Parks writes for the AFL-CIO news blog,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

AFSCME Local 965 Curbs the Clutter

AFSCME Local 965 has participated for several years in Fayetteville's Adopt-a-Street program to create a cleaner, more pleasant environment for everyone who lives, works, and goes to school on the University campus. Our union members chose this as one of our service projects to promote civic responsibility, to share our pride in our community, and to enhance Fayetteville's quality of life through clean streets and a beautiful campus.

Thanks to all of our members who participated today in our quarterly effort in support of the city's Curb the Clutter program! Today's team leaders were Lioneld Jordan, Larry West, Betty Martin, Dwight Morris, and Fillan Ferguson-Rivers as we collected and bagged litter and debris on Razorback Road through campus from Cleveland Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Friday, May 16, 2008

UA Classified Employees to Get COLA

The University of Arkansas announced today that it will, in fact, be able to go ahead with the classified pay increase plan originally outlined earlier this month. The plan will provide classified employees with a 2 percent cost of living increase and merit increases averaging 1 percent. This is good news for UA employees facing rising costs for groceries and gas, as well as increased costs next year for the UA health insurance plan and for campus parking fees.

Earlier this week, the university had adjusted its salary plan in anticipation that the proposal would not be approved by the state in time for the university to develop a budget proposal for fiscal year 2008-09. That revised plan, announced May 13 and calling for larger merit raises but no cost of living adjustment, has been put aside in favor of the original plan as a result of today’s developments.

“This is a positive action that will ensure equitable increases for classified staff to help alleviate some of the burden they face from rapidly rising cost of living pressures,” said G. David Gearhart, chancellor-elect of the university. “We continued throughout the week to discuss the possibility of implementing our original plan, and we’re greatly appreciative of the state’s efforts to clarify the matter and for deferring the decision to us regarding salary increases. While it is regrettable that some confusion has ensued due to the different plans on the table during this difficult budgeting process, in the end we’re happy to be able to move forward with the proposal we initially sought as having the most significant impact upon our people.”

The merit portion of the plan calls for a half-percent increase for classified staff who received a satisfactory performance evaluation during the previous year, a 1 percent increase for those rated above average, and a 1.5 percent raise for staff whose performance has exceeded expectations.

If approved by the board, the 2 percent cost of living adjustments will go into effect July 1. Merit increases will follow either on Oct. 1 or on a later date coinciding with the anniversary of the employee’s date of hire, to remain consistent with the current annual cycle for performance adjustments.

This plan does not affect non-classified faculty and staff. Proposed raises for non-classified employees will come from a 2 percent pool, but individual increases will vary and will be based entirely on merit.

“We’re very pleased to hear of this development, and we appreciate Dr. Gearhart keeping the staff senate and university community informed,” said Paul Bixby, chair of the university’s Staff Senate. “We’re just happy to be back where we started.”

Stephen Smith, President of AFSCME Local 965, expressed his appreciation for the return to the original classified pay plan. “We are pleased that university administrators proposed this improved pay plan for classified employees and continued to work diligently to secure state approval until it was authorized,” he said. “We particularly appreciate the persistent efforts of Chancellor-elect Gearhart, Vice Chancellors Don Pederson and Richard Hudson, and Associate Vice Chancellor Barbara Taylor. We look forward to a cooperative and productive relationship with the administration to strengthen our institution and advance the best interests of faculty, staff and students.”

“We’ve chosen to put our people first, albeit within our stretched means in the coming year,” said Gearhart in previously announcing this plan. “While new programs that can enhance our quality and service to the state are critical – and we hope to address those as soon as our funding outlook improves – what makes a great university are its people. In order to continue to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff to serve our students, they need to be our priority even when difficult budget choices need to be made.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

May 12, 1978. Court injunction ends strike by 124 AFSCME members unsuccessfully seeking change in unfair disciplinary procedures by City of Fort Smith.

May 12, 1958. Arkansas Supreme Court held that strikers who tried to get employer to recognize a union as bargaining agent are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits when not rehired.

May 12, 1986. Governor Bill Clinton signed workers' compensation legislation that increases benefits for injured workers, sets up system for mediation to reduce lengthy legal battles, and provides funding for job safety study.

May 12, 1989. Grant Thornton consulting firm estimates at the end of 1988, 27,408 people, or 12 percent of the state's manufacturing labor force, belonged to a labor union--down from 12.97% in 1987.

May 12, 1994. Federation of Metropolitan Teachers, affiliated with American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO), announces it will challenge Little Rock School District's decision to eliminate 80 teaching positions next year.

May 12, 2003. Irena King, Mena Wal-Mart "Associate," fell and fractured her right wrist while walking from the bakery to the employee lounge. Wal-Mart said she was not working and fought against paying insurance claim for medical bills.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Burger King Spied on Labor Activists

Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have exposed Burger King for its role in attempts to infiltrate and spy on the inner workings of a CIW-allied organization, the Student/Farmworker Alliance.

Both CIW and SFA are headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, where tomato pickers are demanding Burger King join with other tomato purchasers to better the wages and working conditions throughout the tomato industry. The CIW launched a campaign against the company in 2006 after their former targets, Taco Bell and McDonald’s, agreed to workers’ demands.

After running successful [1] drives [2] against two giant fast-food companies, organizers in Immokalee are used to corporate misinformation and public relations spin. With more than a decade of organizing under their belt, though, they had yet to worry much about the supporters who call the office and ask to help.

Organizers began to grow wary after receiving a March 8 email from a University of Virginia student named “Kevin” from the email address “stopcorporategreed at” The same address had leaked to the Associated Press an internal Burger King memo stating that the company was considering cutting off its purchases of Florida tomatoes—a move that would devastate the campaign.

“If you’re a student in Virginia, how do you get access to a Burger King internal document?” asked Marc Rodrigues, a Student/Farmworker Alliance organizer. “We wrote back that we’d love to send them an organizing packet and to send us an address. We never heard back.”

Investigations heightened their anxiety. The email address originated out of a suburb of Miami, where Burger King is headquartered, not Virginia. “Kevin” had also requested access to the organization’s upcoming conference call, but it wasn’t until a few days later that the request stood out.

Rodrigues received a call March 11 from Cara Schaffer, who said she attended a local community college and was excited to support the campaign. Like the University of Virginia student, Schaffer immediately inquired about access to the organization’s national conference call.

But the student organizers soon realized that Schaffer was not one of them—in fact, she is the president of Diplomatic Tactical Services, a Florida-based corporate espionage firm. According to the company’s website, DTS specializes in “handling all types of investigative activity during strikes, organizational [sic] attempts, secondary pickets, negotiations, and decertification drives.” It offers its corporate clients covert surveillance services and the ability to place undercover operatives inside target groups.

Schaffer joined numerous conference calls the organization held in March to prepare for upcoming actions, but never said a word nor identified herself during the calls.

The battle has been waged in cyberspace, too. An anonymous poster with the online identity Activist2008 obsessively posts derogatory comments on online stories and videos related to the CIW. A reporter from the Fort Myers News Press received similar messages from the email address “activist2008 at,” which she traced back to Burger King headquarters. That paper reported the daughter of Steven Grover, Burger King’s vice president of regulatory compliance, confirmed that her father posted the comments.

While Burger King has denied that it officially sanctions the surveillance and manipulation of Immokalee organizers, a spokesman told reporters that it cannot control the online activities of its hundreds of employees.

“When you realize the person posting those things is actually Burger King's vice president in charge of the ethical operation of the company’s supply chain, it really makes you wonder just how high up does this whole thing go?” asked Gerardo Reyes, a member of the CIW, in the Fort Myers News Press.

Rodrigues said that the snooping isn’t stamping out their enthusiasm. “Maybe we’ll be a bit more careful in what we say on emails,” he said. “We’re not worried, though, because all they found out is that there’s tons of students organizing actions and events to support our campaign around the country.”

Article by Tiffany Ten Eyck, Labor Notes, used by permission.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Gearhart Backs Staff Salary Increases

The University of Arkansas expects to offer modest raises to faculty and staff under a new budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, despite initial concerns that a proposed cut of nearly $5 million in state funding for the university might hinder its ability to offer pay increases. Since that proposed cut, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration has projected a $164 million state surplus.

Based on new budget planning, funds will be available to provide salary pools in an effort to at least keep pace with the rising cost of living. The planned salary increases, however, would come at the expense of any new university program offerings or expenditures that were under consideration, except for those deemed unavoidable costs in the coming year.

"We've chosen to put our people first, albeit within our stretched means in the coming year," said G. David Gearhart, chancellor-elect of the university. "While new programs that can enhance our quality and service to the state are critical - and we hope to address those as soon as our funding outlook improves - what makes a great university are its people. In order to continue to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff to serve our students, they need to be our priority even when difficult budget choices need to be made."

Under the new budget plan, which requires the approval of the state's Office of Personnel Management as well as the university's Board of Trustees next month, each classified employee would receive a 2 percent raise for cost of living allowance with an additional 1 percent put into a pool to be distributed by merit.

Nonclassified employees, including nonclassified staff, faculty and graduate students, would receive merit increases based on a 2 percent pool. In addition, the faculty promotion increments would be funded at previous levels.

"Salaries at the university, particularly those earned by classified staff, continue to lag anywhere from 15 to 40 percent below those offered at peer institutions, when adjusted for market conditions," said Gearhart. "Clearly, we cannot afford to lose any more ground when it comes to compensation for our people."

AFSCME Local 965 continues to be impressed with Chancellor-designate Gearhart's vision for the University and his commitment to faculty, staff, and students. We look forward to working with him when he takes office on July 1.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

NALC Food Drive This Saturday

Our union brothers and sisters from the National Association of Letter Carriers, with help from the other postal crafts, will stage a blitz on Saturday, May 10, to combat hunger in America, conducting NALC’s annual “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive. Please help by leaving a bag of non-perishable food items next to your mailbox for your letter carrier to pick up on his or her route this Saturday. The food will be delivered to local foodbanks, pantries and shelters throughout the Arkansas Foodbank Network

The union settled on the second Saturday of May for the annual drive since food bank donations tend to wane after the winter holidays. This drop-off is particularly troublesome since the hunger problem is usually at its most critical during the summer when school breakfast and lunch programs—often the only source of stable nutrition for millions of children—are suspended.

The challenge this year is especially daunting. All signs point to a deepening recession, and with gasoline prices flirting with $4 a gallon, more and more families—including those of carriers—are looking everywhere for ways to save money. This economic squeeze comes while 35 million Americans are experiencing what the federal government refers to as “very low food security,” a euphemistic way of saying people are either already going hungry or are worried about where their next meal will come from.

The drive, in its 16th year, is the largest one-day food collection in the nation and the biggest community service effort by any union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. On the day before Mother’s Day this year, letter carriers will focus their efforts on restocking the community food banks, pantries and shelters that millions of American families will rely on throughout the summer.

And don't miss this endorsement video by the Harlem Globetrotters!

AAUW Supports Paid Family Leave

As Mother's Day approaches, we think of our mothers and other family members who cared for us over the years and of those for whom we care. In honor of this day, AFSCME Local 965 joins with the American Association of University Women and asks you to urge our senators to support the Family Leave Insurance Act (S. 1681). This important legislation will provide up to eight weeks of paid leave to workers needing time off due to the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious illness, or to care for their own serious illness.

A study released by Harvard and McGill University researchers in February 2007 found that the United States lags far behind nearly all wealthy countries in family-oriented workplace policies. In fact, the U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey - along with Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea - that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave.

The University of Arkansas administration could provide paid family leave without federal legislation mandating it, but UA policies make it difficult for enough to take unpaid leave under the current Family and Medical Leave Act. That's why we need to act now and make our opinions known to someone who might care and be responsive to the circumstances confronting working families.

The Family Leave Insurance Act will allow working men and women the paid time off to balance their work responsibilities with their own and their families' medical needs. This bill will benefit both employers and their employees by establishing a fund through which employees, employers, and the federal government will share the cost of providing tiered compensation during times of family need.

AAUW has long supported flexible workplace policies to address the family responsibilities of employees. AAUW advocated for nearly a decade to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was finally signed into law in 1993. While the FMLA has been an enormous gain for millions of workers, millions of Americans still do not have the option of taking time off to care for family members or themselves - either because they do not quality for FMLA leave, or even more likely, because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. AAUW believes that creating work environments that help employees balance the responsibilities of work and family is good public policy - good for workers, good for families, and good for business.

AAUW wishes all of you who are mothers a very happy Mother's Day.

Take Action!
Urge our senators to cosponsor and support the Family Leave Insurance Act (S.1681) so that America's families don't have to choose between keeping a job and caring for themselves or a loved one. Click on the "Take Action" link in the upper right corner or copy and paste the following URL into your Internet browser. Then follow the instructions to send your message.

For more information, read AAUW's position paper on family friendly workplaces.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pay Raise Recommended for State's Classified Employees

Kay Barnhill Terry, administrator of the Office of Personnel Management, and and Andrew Bass of the Bureau of Legislative Research will ask the Legislature next year for $20.6 million from general revenue and an additional $26.1 million from cash fund agencies to enact recommended changes in the pay scale for state workers and to help cut down on turnover among entry-level workers.

Gov. Mike Beebe and state legislators have said they're concerned that entry-level workers are quickly leaving their positions for more lucrative private sector jobs and that turnover among entry-level employees is hurting productivity.

The pay plan now starts at $13,243 for entry level classified employees. Under the new plan, entry level employees would receive $15,080. "This will help offset so many inequities," Terry told the personnel subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council today.

It is a start. It is not a living wage. AFSCME Local 965 will continue fighting for fair pay for all University employees and other working families in Northwest Arkansas.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Support Pathways to Career Training

While more women are working than ever before, many do not have the skills and opportunities necessary to obtain the high-wage jobs needed to adequately support themselves and their families. To address this, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) recently introduced the Pathways to Advancing Career Training (PACT) Act (H.R. 5774). This legislation would fund programs that provide outreach, education, training, support, and job placement assistance to encourage and prepare women for nontraditional careers. The provisions of the PACT Act would fill the void left when similar programs were eliminated from the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act in 1998.

Women experience barriers to entry in high-wage, high-skill jobs due to biased career counseling and recruiting. Even after they enter nontraditional career and technical education programs, they may experience sexual harassment and differential treatment in the classroom. The PACT Act focuses on decreasing the obstacles single mothers and divorced and widowed women face when re-entering the workforce and preparing them for careers in fields where they are underrepresented.

The American Association for University Women believes that career and technical education is increasingly important for women and girls working towards economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families in a competitive marketplace. Access to high-wage, high-skill jobs should be a right for women and girls from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, age, and disability backgrounds, including training for nontraditional jobs. It is in these fields traditionally dominated by men that women workers can begin to close the persistent wage gap between women and men.

Take Action!
To urge your representative to cosponsor the PACT Act, just click on the "Take Action" link in the upper right corner or copy and paste the following URL into your Internet browser. Then follow the instructions to send your message:

If your representative has already signed on as cosponsors, you will be able to send her or him a message of thanks.

For more information, read AAUW's position paper on career and technical education for women and girls.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Negotiate Green to Protect Working Families and Our Planet

Mother Nature does not discriminate, but those willing to break her rules surely do.

For years the ugly relationship between economic injustice and environmental injustice has festered and flourished. While the environmental impacts of the way we produce, consume, and dispose of material goods and energy affect us all, low-income working families and communities get a particularly raw deal: from the landfills and power plants that contaminate air, land, and water in their communities; to limited job options that often require prolonged exposure to toxic substances; to the higher incidence of asthma among their children; to the devastating effects of hurricanes and floods on their budgets and livelihoods.

So what's a labor union to do? While we see the writing on the wall regarding environmental degradation, we also know that when changes in consumption are required, it is poor consumers who are hit the hardest. It's the double whammy: these needed changes often lead to higher prices for essential goods and services like food, electricity, and fuel; and they can jeopardize the jobs of lower-wage workers in energy-intensive industries.

Too often we as a society do all stakeholders a disservice by talking about climate change, toxicity, and unsustainable resource depletion as problems to be solved by elite sectors of society in their spare time. Workers and low-income people are not a liability or a line item in the debate. They are a part of the solution.

Right now, union members and leaders from across the country are putting forth concrete ideas for such "green contract provisions" as public transportation benefits to decrease automobile use; replacement of toxic cleaning supplies to protect workers, land, and water; the adoption of more sustainable methods and tools to deliver top-quality healthcare; and the establishment of labor-management environmental committees for ongoing monitoring of environmental issues in the workplace. Through SEIU's considerable collective bargaining power and our Negotiate Green initiative, we have the capacity to negotiate for contract provisions that will benefit us, our children, and the environment.

The crisis facing our planet is one of historic proportions and will require an historically broad coalition to solve.

At every level -- international, national, sector and workplace -- we are all stakeholders and we all have a part to play. We can and must "negotiate green," creatively and persistently advocating for environmentally responsible paths and policies that respect human and labor rights.

Adapted from “Labor: Negotiate Green to Protect Working People and Their Environment,” by Gerry Hudson, international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View the original story online at:

Longshore Union Strikes Against War

On Thursday, May Day, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will declare an eight-hour strike to protest the war in Iraq. Since the ILWU controls every port along the U.S. Pacific Coast, including Seattle and Tacoma, this strike demonstrates the collective power of workers willing to use it.

The ILWU is demanding “an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East.” Although the majority of Americans repeatedly have expressed their desire to end the war, President Bush has not obliged us, so it drags on. Because our leaders refuse to listen, ILWU members are taking the next logical step for workers: Strike.

For those unfamiliar, the ILWU is perhaps the most militant and politicized worker organization in the nation. It operates in one of the most important sectors of the world economy — marine transport — and, thus, is in a strategic location to put peace above profits.

Forged in the fires of 1930s worker struggles to gain basic rights, the ILWU was born in 1934 when longshoremen (there were no women in the industry then, though there are now) performed the incredibly hard, dangerous and important work of loading and unloading ships. To improve their wages and wrest some control over their lives, men all along the coast struck — and in a few instances died — to gain union recognition.

The ILWU is highly democratic. A caucus of more than 100 longshore workers representing every union local establishes policies for the Longshore Division. It was this caucus that voted to declare the May Day strike.

Dockworkers, including those in the ILWU, have a proud tradition of political action. For example, in the 1980s the ILWU respected the strike of British dockworkers by refusing to unload a ship worked by scab labor. Just last week, union longshoremen in South Africa refused to unload a Chinese vessel carrying military supplies destined for autocratic Zimbabwe — a tremendous example of solidarity.

That the ILWU chose International Workers’ Day to declare this strike suggests its political commitment and internationalism. Around the world, workers honor labor by taking a holiday. What few Americans know is that the tradition of a May Day strike originated not in the Soviet Union in the 1950s but the United States of the 1880s.

These days, such examples of worker power are increasingly rare in the U.S. The tragedy is that, historically, labor activism gave us the 40-hour workweek (and the weekend) and helped humanize the exploitative excesses of unregulated capitalism. As income inequality continues to grow in the United States, it is wise to remember how, in the past, strong unions created a larger middle class as well as a more democratic and egalitarian nation.

The ILWU strike also reminds us that unions still have an important role in public discussions beyond the workplace. As a democratic institution, the ILWU is precisely the sort of “civic society” that the Bush administration has been trying to create in Iraq. On May 1, dockworkers will speak loud and clear — end the endless war in Iraq. Other American workers who want to support our troops by bringing them home can make their voices heard by joining with the brave men and women of the ILWU and taking the day off.

Peter Cole is an associate professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. His book “Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia” was published by the University of Illinois Press.

©1996-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Pryor Stands Up to the Chamber

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) said yesterday that he supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which he called a first step toward modernizing American labor law, and that the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has "probably exaggerated" claims about the impact on the state’s economy.

The state chamber has made opposition to the pending "card check" bill one of its top priorities. Workers could sign authorization cards to join unions, thus making it much easier to organize, employers maintain. It would mean higher wages and better benefits for employees, which the Chamber opposes.

Pryor said the state group is taking its marching orders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with its vocal assault on the bill. The chamber overstates concerns that the bill, if approved, would stunt job growth in the
Arkansas, he said.

"I think they're probably exaggerated, and I think the get a lot of this from the national organization," Pryor said. "I think the people in
Arkansas are very common-sense. They're very hard-working. They expect when they work in a place to be treated fairly. Arkansas is a very good place to have a business."

Pryor was the target of an anti-card check advertising blitz a year ago, funded by a national anti-worker coalition that includes the state chamber and the Arkansas Hospitality Association. "I think the national people are trying to rev up a lot of their local chambers all over the country on this issue," he said.

State chamber members leaned on Arkansas lawmakers to oppose the bill during a presentation at the chamber's 49th annual congressional dinner in Washington on Monday. "What we really fear is that every small business in Arkansas would wind up unionized, and I don't see how that does not have an impact on the state economy," said Kenny Hall, executive vice president of the State Chamber

Sen. Blanche Lincoln remains uncommitted. Rep. John Boozman (R-AR3) stands with the chamber on the issue.

Adapted from an article by Aaron Sadler, Stephens Washington Bureau

The AAUP Reports on Faculty Salaries

After a short-lived recovery in 2006-2007, faculty salaries are lagging behind inflation again this year. Yet the salaries paid to head football coaches, presidents, and other top administrators do not seem to reflect an economic downturn. Over the past three decades, the ranks of contingent faculty, non-faculty professionals, and administrators have swelled while the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty stagnated. These are the central findings of Where Are the Priorities? The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2007-–08, released by the AAUP.

Here are some highlights of this year's report:

  • With inflation at 4.1 percent for the year, the purchasing power of faculty salaries has declined for the third time in four years.
  • The gap between faculty salaries and salaries paid to administrators continues to grow. This year’s report builds on previous discussions of presidents’ salaries by including data for other top administrators.
  • Over three decades, employment patterns in colleges and universities have been radically transformed. While the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty has grown 17 percent, the ranks of contingent faculty (both part and full time) and full-time non-faculty professionals have each tripled, and the count of administrators has doubled.
  • The salaries paid to head football coaches at Division I-A universities are ten times as high as the salaries of senior professors. What does this say about the priorities of these universities?

The complete report is available on the AAUP’s Web site . This year, for the first time, a complete set of institutional data is available on the Web site.

International Workers' Day

May 1st, International Workers' Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world and is recognized as "Labor Day" in every country except the United States, Canada, and South Africa.

The holiday began in the 1880s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour work day. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute the legal maximum day's work from and after May 1, 1886. The movement was also supported by many locals of the Knights of Labor.

Today's legislation on the 40-hour week and the eight-hour day in most workplaces and the requirement for overtime pay rates are a direct result of labor's historic and ongoing effort to improve the lives of all working families.