Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jim Halsell for School Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Green Jobs Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

War on Working Families

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

I’ll tell you what’s class warfare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wall Street Bailout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call and write. Time is short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is the sample letter:

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

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

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

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

I ask you to commit to the following:

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fayetteville School Board Election

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

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

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

We also recommend James McGinty for Position 2. His website is at http://www.electmcginty.com/

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

Both candidates use union printers for their campaign signs.

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

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bush's Dreadful Labor Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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