Thursday, July 31, 2008

House Passes Paycheck Fairness Act

House Democrats pushed through legislation tonight that would give women new tools to combat pay discrimination. The pay equity bill, which passed by a 247-178 vote, would treat gender discrimination involving pay in the same category as race, disability and age discrimination. It would provide for compensatory and punitive damages, ban employers from retaliating against workers who share their salary with colleagues, and force employers to prove that paying a women less than a man is job-related and necessary.

A study by the UA Faculty Senate documented that the University of Arkansas paid female Assistant Professors about $11,000 per year less than their male colleagues. Chancellor John White failed to address and correct the problem, even after it was called to his attention by AFSCME Local 965. We are hopeful that Chancellor David Gearhart, who assumed office this month, will be committed to ending gender discrimination and achieving pay equity. It has been the law since 1963, and enactment of the Paycheck Fairness Act could strengthen the rights of women in the workplace.

"This is a historic step forward in the fight for equal rights for women," said Democratic Congressman George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, but companies continually have found ways around it. Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro said, "Just because something is illegal, does not mean that it does not continue to happen." The Institute of Women's Policy Research says wage disparity will cost a woman as much as $2 million over her lifetime in lost wages.

Republicans said women did not need additional legal protection, and the legislation would benefit trial lawyers, who could get legal fees when they win pay discrimination cases against corporations. George Bush has threatened to veto the legislation.

The bill passed by 247-178. All 178 voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act were Republicans, including our own Representative John Boozman of Rogers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NWACC Hosts Workplace Safety Training

Unions have been demanding safe working conditions for their members for generations, and there have been significant improvements brought about by state and federal legislative victories. To help close the gap between the promise of the law and the realities in the workplace, Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville is hosting a Workers' Safety Conference on August 14th, from 7:15 am-2:30 pm. It is sponsored by the NWA Safety and Health Advisory Council and will include presentations by the Arkansas Department of Labor, the U.S. Labor Department, and the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission.

The seminar is designed for hourly employees, and private businesses and public agencies interested in maintaining a safe and healthful workplace are encouraged to attend and send their employees. The registration fee of $20 covers lunch and materials. For more information, contact Juanita Matlock at 501.682.9090 or email her at

AFSCME Local 965 commends the administration of Northwest Arkansas Community College for hosting this conference on worker safety on the job. We hope that the University of Arkansas will soon remember the essential role of workers in our economy and be interested in offering programs that benefit hourly workers by increasing their skills and improving their quality of life.

Monday, July 28, 2008

AFSCME Convention This Week

This week nearly 6,000 delegates, alternates and guests have gathered in San Francisco for AFSCME's 38th International Convention. The Convention, with the theme of "We Make America Happen," convenes today and runs through Friday. Senator Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore will be featured Convention speakers. Senator Barack Obama will address the AFSCME Convention live via satellite on Thursday.

In his keynote address today, president Gerald McEntee told the crowd that, “Together we will build an even more powerful union! Together we will reach out and organize the unorganized! We will negotiate contracts that make our families strong! Together we will fight for a new America!”

President McEntee's speech set the stage for the week by calling on attendees to continue implementing the sweeping measures of the Power to Win plan, and to work harder than ever before to take back the White House for America's working families. A major part of the plan includes building public support for the vital services we provide. The union's new tagline, "We Make America Happen," captures the critical role AFSCME members play in making our communities better places to work, live and raise a family. This theme will be the focus of our Convention, including the many educational workshops and action center booths, which cover such topics as political action, retirement, and our campaign to guarantee quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

This Convention also will be the most environmentally-friendly gathering in AFSCME history. Key Convention materials were printed on recycled paper using eco-friendly, soy-based ink, reusuable water bottles were provided to delegates and information traditionally provided as handouts were instead given to delegates electronically on a computer flash drive.

Convention highlights and video will be providing daily on Greenline, the national AFSCME blog, and on the website at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

July 27, 1897. James R. Sovereign of Sulphur Springs, Grant Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, attends United Labor Conference in Wheeling, West Virginia.

July 27, 1936. Ella Reeve Bloor speaks to meeting of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union local at Alder Springs.

July 27, 1953. Employees of Southern Lumber Company of Warren go out on strike for fair wages.

July 27, 2000. Federal Judge Howard Sachs finds that management attorneys and lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce had been working through Governor Mike Huckabee's office to get "liberal" Workers Compensation Commission Administrative Law Judge Eileen Harrison fired because of her sympathy with injured workers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paycheck Fairness Act

The University of Arkansas administration has failed to address our request for fair pay for all and continues to pay women faculty members less than their male colleagues. The House is expected to vote next week (the week of July 28) on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338), providing a critical opportunity for Congress to make real progress on pay equity. Even if you have contacted Congressman Boozman about this legislation before, we now ask you again to urge him to vote yes on this legislation and oppose any attempts to weaken it.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963, closing loop holes and improving the law's effectiveness. The Paycheck Fairness Act would, among other things, deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations, and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages. The bill also requires employers to show that wage gaps are truly a result of factors other than sex, collect better data on wages, reinstate activities that promote equal pay at the Department of Labor, and develop training for women and girls on salary negotiations. The bill's measured approach ensures that women can obtain the same remedies as those discriminated against based on race.

The 2007 AAUW report, Behind the Pay Gap, shows that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn less than their male colleagues, even when they have the same major and occupation. Ten years after graduation, the pay gap widens. With a record 70 million women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families. In addition, wage discrimination lowers total lifetime earnings, reducing women's benefits from Social Security and pension plans and inhibiting their ability to save not only for retirement but for other lifetime goals such as buying a home and paying for a college education.

Equal pay for equal work is a simple matter of justice for women, and a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act is a critical step forward in our goal to close the persistent and sizable wage gaps between men and women.

Take Action! To urge Congressman Boozman to support the Paycheck Fairness Act when it comes up for a vote next week, simply CLICK HERE, enter your zip code and click "Go!" to be taken to the "Take Action" section. There you can compose and send your message.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

July 25,1938. David Spears, United Furniture Workers, addresses Arkansas Congress for Social and Economic Progress in Little Rock and says that Fort Smith had become "one of the strongest CIO towns in the country."

July 25, 1960. Local Union No. 700 IBEW (AFL-CIO) goes out on strike against Baldor Electric Company plant in Fort Smith after contract negotiations stall.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

July 24, 1920. Dr. David Y. Thomas, UA Professor of History, gives address in University of Arkansas Chapel on "Labor and the State," reviewing improved working conditions resulting from legislation secured through the efforts of organized labor, but he lamented that Arkansas still had no workman's compensation law to protect employees injured on the job or to provide death benefits for the families of workers killed in mining and industrial accidents.