Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UA Withheld Classified Workers' Raises

Arkansas legislators conducting budget hearings in Little Rock next month will be reviewing the decision by the University of Arkansas and other universities to withhold full pay increases from classified employees despite a law that provided for the raises this fiscal year, according to the co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee.

All state agencies gave the full raises, but Arkansas Tech was the only four-year public university to give more than a partial pay plan increase to classified workers this fiscal year. Unlike state agencies, colleges and universities do not answer directly to the governor or legislature under the Arkansas Constitution. Finance director Richard Weiss admitted, “We don’t have any control or very little control over colleges and universities.”

In a memorandum to university administrators, Dr. Jim Purcell, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, said “The level of support that higher education institutions received in this tough budget year was to some extent based upon an understanding that the institutions would implement the pay plan.” He also advised “that full implementation of the pay plan as soon as practical is highly desired,” and he reminded them that their budgets “are dependent on legislative and executive branch support.”

Higher education budget hearings begin on January 12, and the full legislative fiscal session begins February 8.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Renewable energy, and the green jobs that come along with it, are key to our economic growth. It is essential that in order to lead the world in renewable energy technologies, and create good jobs that support our families and communities, we must look at ways to rebuild and revitalize American manufacturing. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. We’re just making countries like China rich. That’s not sustainable. We have to create more jobs." -- Mike Langford, Utility Workers Union of America

Sunday, December 6, 2009

AFSCME Nurses Rally for Reform

Local physician Hershey Garner voiced his support for reformed health care in Arkansas on Saturday during a news conference outside of the Fayetteville Town Center.

“As someone who works in Northwest Arkansas, I see first-hand how broken the system is,” he said. “It’s embarrassing that we are the only industrialized country that doesn’t have universal coverage. As a result, patients aren’t getting the care they need.”

The U.S. Senate, he said, is expected to vote on a reform bill in the coming days. But before senators can hold an up or down vote, 60 senators must first vote to end a Republican filibuster to kill the bill.

“What the Senate is doing is slowing the process,” he said. “Health care is a complex issue. We need to provide people with accurate information so they They’re not providing the help we need at the ground level. My hope is to get the information out there so we can aggressively pursue meaningful health care reform.”

Garner, who works with cancer patients in Northwest Arkansas, spoke to a handful of nurses from across the country Saturday. Participants, dressed in hospital scrubs, hit Fayetteville streets to distribute information on health care reform door-to-door. The local campaign was one of six similar canvasses in “battleground” states.

Valentina Zamora-Arrela, a registered nurse from San Bernardino, Calif., said the goal of Saturday’s news conference was to provide residents with accurate information regarding health care and to encourage U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, to vote on a health care option that will lower costs, improve quality and keep insurance companies honest.

Lincoln has yet to indicate how she will vote. Calls made to her offices in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Washington on Saturday weren’t answered.

“We need real reform that keeps my patients’ health in the hands of their nurses and doctors; not their insurance companies’,” Zamora-Arrela said.

“We see so many patients, especially in California where the economy has been hit so hard, who don’t have health care. We need a public option because no one should come between a person and their doctor.”

Asela Espiritu, a registered nurse from Orange County, Calif., said a public health insurance plan should be an option for everyone, alongside with private health insurance plans. The public plan, she said, would compete on a level playing field with private plans and would be administered by government, but funded through premiums.

“A lot of the information being distributed in the media is very one-sided,” she said. “People should to talk to nurses like me, who work in the health care field, so they can make a knowledgeable decision. They also need to pick up their phones and call their senator today. One vote counts for a lot. It could save our next generation.”

According to Zamora-Arrela, the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill would include a 40 percent excise tax in 2013 on health care plans valued at more than $8,000 for individual coverage or $20,000 for family coverage.

Saturday’s event was sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Organizing for America and Working for America. Similar events took place in Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, North Dakota and Nebraska.

“Our employees have health care insurance,” said Stephen Smith, president of AFSCME Local 965. “We’re working for those who don’t have access to affordable health care. It’s not just about us, it’s about everyone.”

By Kate Ward, Northwest Arkansas Times, December 6, 2009, page 1.
AFSCME-United Nurses of America is over 60,000 nurses working in unity to advance quality and accountability in the healthcare setting through organizing, political action and nursing practice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peace at Home Toy Drive

Sister Theresa Sims is again organizing the Peace at Home Toy Drive for Local 965. Last year we were able to provide toy to displaced children in 60 families during the holiday season. Yet, there are more than twice that many displaced families served by the Peace at Home shelter and services.

This year, Theresa and Danny have pledged to match the cash donations from other members of our local, up to $500, so give as generously as you can. Theresa has also volunteered to do the shopping after talking with the staff at Peace at Home to see what they need.

Let us remember those less fortunate and share in the spirit of our union. For additional information, contact Theresa at 479-575-3108 or tsims@uark.edu

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Barbara Taylor Staff Scholarship Fund

Dr. Barbara G. Taylor, former member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and associate vice chancellor for human resources, will retire this year after 35 years of service to the University of Arkansas. We wish her well. In lieu of gifts commemorating her service upon her departure, people are encouraged to instead make a contribution to the Staff Senate Scholarship Fund in Taylor’s honor. These contributions will be used to support the educational endeavors of staff who contribute to the diversity of the campus, either by ethnicity or field of work.

Taylor, who began her career at the university as director of human relations, the title used for the campus’ first affirmative action officer, has always been interested in increasing the diversity of the students, faculty and staff.

“Awareness of diversity on our campus has increased during my time here,” Taylor said. “Northwest Arkansas has certainly become more diverse over the past 35 years, and I think that growth and change truly enhances and enriches the university and the community alike. Diversity is a very broad concept; when we bring different kinds of people together, we all learn from each other and become more creative and inclusive.”

As Taylor reflects on 35 years of service to the University of Arkansas, there is one thing she’ll miss most: the people. She finds that the human resources function on campus has evolved from a mindset of making and enforcing rules to a strategic, genuine “How can I help you?” approach to serving others. She finds there is now a greater focus on what is important to the campus as a whole and on what will make everyone’s work easier.

“Every day is a surprise in human resources,” she said, “and it is always interesting, never boring, and I never know what each day will bring. Working here has been a challenging and fulfilling experience, and I hope to continue to stay involved and to help others even though I won’t be coming to work here every day.”

Gifts to the Staff Senate Scholarship Fund may be made through the Annual Fund Web site. Be sure to indicate that your gift is in honor of Barbara Taylor.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rev. Copley: Unions Help Families

We are living in very difficult economic times. In the midst of these times, the community of faith must stand with workers in their struggle to provide for their families.

All major religions recognize the dignity of the worker and the sanctity of labor. Yet in the wealthiest country on Earth, working Americans are facing difficult choices. They are forced to choose between paying for groceries and medicine, the mortgage and the college tuition bill. This must change.

Throughout the history of our country, the best way to move a family into the middle class has been through forming unions at the workplace. It is the quickest way to eliminate poverty. It is important that we support the Employee Free Choice Act. It provides an opportunity for our country to take an important concrete step toward fulfilling the dream of a just society.

The EFCA provides a protected and fair way for workers to form a union. It would provide much needed balance to the system and put the choice on whether to form unions back in the workers’ hands.

Unions have made the middle class in the United States. This is what has made our country the economic powerhouse it has been. They also are a crucial part of the broad movement to put the pursuit of justice ahead of the pursuit of profit and power. It is for this reason that people of faith should support the Employee Free Choice Act.

REV. STEVE COPLEY North Little Rock

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6 November 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No raise, no bonus.

Below is Chancellor Gearhart's letter explaining why employees will not get the Christmas bonus promised earlier after getting no raises this year. No mention of plans for cutting the astounding number of administrators that ballooned under John White's reign.


As you no doubt already know, the state's fiscal outlook has taken a downward turn. This has necessitated funding cuts to state agencies including all public universities. We recently were notified that the cut to our current fiscal year budget will be approximately $2.42
million, funds that already had been budgeted in a very, very tight fiscal year.

While this cut comes at a most difficult time, compared to some of our peer institutions in the SEC and across the country we are in much better shape. Several SEC universities have endured catastrophic budget cuts in excess of $40 million from their state appropriations. Fortunately, unlike so many of our peers, we have not had to institute
layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts.

Although it has been my aspiration to offset the lack of salary increases this year with a one-time stipend around the holiday season, the darkening budget outlook has negated the university's ability to proceed with this plan. Funds we had set aside for one-time stipends,
subject to Board of Trustees approval in November, are now needed to offset the unexpected loss of state revenue.

However, the university will be able to pick up the full cost of medical insurance premium increases through June 30, 2010 as a way of providing some degree of assistance to our faculty and staff during these difficult times. The university previously had committed to
covering premium increases only through this December.

Please know that I deeply regret our inability to provide any modest compensatory support to our outstanding faculty and staff. It pains me personally to continue to build the university on the backs of our university family, but we believe it prudent to take this cautious approach given the recent cuts. We also wanted to notify the community as soon as this change of plan became apparent, so that expectation of a stipend was not factored into individuals' holiday budgets.

Financially speaking, we have a great deal for which to be thankful -- although I realize that doesn't help when the paycheck of so many valued faculty and staff doesn't at least keep pace with annual cost of living increases. Salary increases and expanding our faculty to meet the needs of our growing student body continue to be very high priorities, and we hope for better days ahead.

We appreciate your ongoing understanding as we continue to do our best to weather the current economic storm together.

G. David Gearhart
University of Arkansas

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

State Budget Cuts Announced

State cuts budget $100 million(Max Brantley, Arkansas Blog, 10/20/09)

As expected, Gov. Mike Beebe has announced that he'll cut the state budget for the balance of this fiscal year -- it runs through June 30 -- by $100 million because of a continuing decline in state tax revenue. Prisons, health and the State Police will experience the hardest hits of what amounts to a 2.2 percent budget cut, the governor said. Surplus funds will maintain education spending at court-mandated "adequacy" levels.

Some further details from Richard Weiss, the state director of Finance and Administration:

He says the cuts are intended to recoup shortfalls so far this year, but the economic forecasts still indicate some rebound in economic performance by spring so the overall cut isn't as deep as the 10 percent decline in revenue seen in recent months. He said he doubted the 2.2 percent cut should mean layoffs or cuts in recently granted pay raises. Leaving positions open, normal turnover reductions in travel and other expenses and other savings should be sufficient to avoid job layoffs, he said.

Weiss was optimistic, too, that fund balances would avoid a "doomsday" scenario of deeper cuts in other agencies so money would be available to meet education mandates.

Next year? That's a matter of some concern. No official forecast is due until Dec. 1. But even with a hoped-for rebound in the economy, state officials will have to look hard at tentative budget figures approved in the 2009 legislative session for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. Can the projected 3.8 percent state employee pay raise surive? That's a questiion as yet unanswered. The first fiscal session in January won't be a happy one.

For now, said Weiss, “The cuts we’re making today will hold us in good stead. But 2010 is going to be something we have to look very closely at.”

It is at least an irony of timing that higher education will suffer a spending cut. The lottery amendment provided that college support couldn't be reduced on account of the new lottery scholarship money. But it could happen concurrently anyway.

Here's the memo to state agencies about the cut.

Here's the memo to legislators with a discussion on economic forecasts.

Here's the agency-by-agency spreadsheet on the dollar amount of the cuts.

The governor's release:

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Mike Beebe has accepted a recommendation by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration to cut the state budget by $100 million for the current fiscal year. The revised budget forecast comes after revenues fell below those predicted for the first three months of the fiscal year.

"Just like any family or business, state government must live within its means," Beebe said. "Despite our conservative budgeting, it appears that our recovery from the recession has been slower than anticipated. There are still positive signs in the revenue numbers, and we maintain hope that the recovery will accelerate."

The revised cut means a 2.2 percent reduction of the overall budget, with the Departments of Correction, Community Correction and Health and the Arkansas State Police seeing the largest reductions. Existing fund balances will ensure continued adequacy for public education.

UA Law Students and Worker Justice

At a national law students’ conference presented by the Peggy Browning Fund, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the nation’s next generation of labor lawyers justice for workers can’t be won unless there are lawyers willing to fight on their behalf:

You’re choosing to follow your conscience, to pursue economic justice and not just to fatten your wallets. There is no higher calling than the one you aspire to—to pursue social and economic justice in our nation, to ensure that we are a nation of equal opportunity.

America’s unions are as vital today as ever in our history, and we need young legal minds like yours to help us spread the word, to make our case. So I invite you to join us, to dedicate your careers to encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.

Trumka laid out a vision for the future of the labor movement—one that fights to advocate strongly for social and economic justice for everyone. Trumka pledged to make sure all workers have the freedom to form a union, through effective organizing efforts and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to reform our broken labor laws. He also pledged to listen closely to the voices of young people and to engage them so that we can build a union movement that stays relevant for generations to come.

Trumka, who received his law degree from Villanova University, praised the late Peggy Browning, a labor lawyer and member of the National Labor Relations Board, and encouraged students to follow in her footsteps. A lawyer fighting on behalf of workers can make a real difference in peoples’ lives, Trumka said, citing his own experiences during the 1989 Pittston strike, when the Mine Workers (UMWA) protected their health benefits and won a fair contract in the face of fierce opposition from both the mine owners and the owners’ allies in local courts.

Students took part in a question-and-answer session at the Saturday event with Trumka, who got a chance to hear their perspectives on the challenges facing the next generation of workers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

AFSCME Members Make ‘House Calls for Health Care’

Across the country this weekend, AFSCME nurses and community leaders made house calls, getting their neighbors mobilized to pass health care reform that provides affordable coverage to everyone. These nurses and volunteers asked the people they visited to contact their senators and House members and demand health care reform that really works.

Clad in green scrubs, the AFSCME members went door to door in key states, including Arkansas, Nebraska, Maine, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana, Indiana and Delaware. Working America members also took part in door-to-door canvasses for health care reform.

Valentina Zamora-Arreola, a registered nurse in Arkansas, said that health care workers see every day the need for a fairer system:

One of the most important things that we want to see is that healthcare reform is done right. We want to make sure that nurses have their voice out there. We deal with the people when they are sick and we want to make sure that we are looking at healthcare reform options and that we have a public health option.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

AFSCME Supports the United Way

The AFL-CIO is actively involved in the United Way at the national level, and AFSCME Local 965 has always been a strong supporter of the United Way campaign in Fayetteville. Please share what you can.

* Giving $1 week (just $52 a year) provides 288 pounds of food for the hungry in our community or transportation to doctors’ appointments for a senior citizen for a year.
* Giving $2 week provides dues for three low-income children, allowing them to attend an after school program, or provides for 50 snack packs for children, who might not otherwise have food on the weekends.
* Giving $5 week provides delivery of 74 meals to the elderly in their homes, or helps six victims of domestic violence rebuild their lives.
* Giving $10 week provides help for one month’s utility bill for six families, or helps provide 40 prescriptions to individuals without insurance.
* Giving $20 per week provides one month’s scholarship for tuition for an infant in a high-quality learning environment, or provides adult day care services for an adult for one year, or supports one youth for one year of one-on-one mentoring.

Please help the needy in our community, and remember that you not need to give a lot to make an impact. You may designate that you desire to specify funding for a particular cause or organization. Pledge commitments through payroll deduction will begin in January 2010.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nickels and Lincoln

AFSCME organizer Justin Nickels discusses the need for a "public option" in national health care reform. Senator Lincoln tries to dodge the issue by saying it is too expensive. She did not mention whether the cost of agribusiness subsidies were too expensive or demand that those handouts be revenue neutral.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

FOR the New High School

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 965, today called for an investment in our children’s future and announced its endorsement of the proposed millage to build a world class 21st Century high school in Fayetteville. “It is important to our members that we build here and build now for the future of our children and our community; we must not miss this opportunity to do the right thing at the right time” said Larry West, a member of the executive committee

“Last year, we urged the school board to build the new high school at the current location, because it serves students well to be near the University and its resources,” said Vice President Betty Martin. In addition, it is convenient for our faculty and staff who have children attending high school, as well as for nontraditional students and single parents enrolled at the University.” The resolution adopted by the group noted that failure to pass the millage and move forward now would reopen the old debate about location of the school and “shift the discussion from achieving lasting excellence to finding the cheapest temporary solution.”

Early voting begins on Tuesday, September 8, at the Courthouse. Election Day is Tuesday, September 15, at your regular polling place. This is an important election for AFSCME members and their families, so be sure to vote FOR the millage for the new Fayetteville High School.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Labor Day Picnic

AFSCME Local 965 will be hosting our Labor Day Picnic on Saturday, September 5th, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the UA Agri Park (Garland Ave ) 1/2 south of I-540). Bring your family and friends from work. Fun, games, and free food. Hamburgers and hot dogs should be ready by 11:00.

We are also extending an invitation and warm welcome to the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council and the families of member unions. Please join us for a celebration of working families and the dignity of labor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

The 1.6 million members of AFSCME join Americans of all walks of life in mourning the loss of our closest ally and most steadfast friend in the U.S. Senate, Ted Kennedy. During Senator Kennedy’s nearly 47 years as a servant of the entire nation, the labor movement developed an especially close relationship with him, and AFSCME was proud to stand with him in every political effort he made. We stood by his side when he ran against Jimmy Carter because Ted Kennedy was such a great champion for working people and families.

Senator Kennedy called health care reform the cause of his life, first advocating for national health care in 1966. He made a surprise return to the Senate last summer to cast the decisive vote for the Democrats on a Medicare bill. In his memory, we must continue to do all we can to realize his goal of health care reform.

Beyond what he achieved on the national stage, Ted Kennedy was an empathetic and caring man. He stayed in contact with families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and remained in touch long after the cameras were gone. The tragedies he experienced made him especially compassionate when others endured their own hardships.

For me this loss is particularly difficult. He was not just an ally, but a dear friend. But while Senator Kennedy will no longer raise his voice on our behalf, we will forever remember what he gave all of us: his life, his passion, his commitment to a more fair and equitable nation. In remembrance of him, let us all keep fighting for the causes he championed so willingly and so well, and rededicate ourselves to winning national health care reform.

- AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee on the Death of Senator Kennedy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Contrast to Mob Mentality

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a report last week on our Highway to Health Care event in front of the state Capitol in Little Rock — and the importance of Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s support of a public option. In the article, “Union backs public health-care plan during rally” (subscription-only), AFSCME’s Blaine Rummel pointed out that Lincoln has said she’s open to it.

He continued:

“If we allow [government] to compete with private insurance companies, it’s going to force private insurance companies to lower premiums,” Rummel said.

He said Obama’s plan will ensure that people keep coverage when they change jobs.

Sen. Lincoln sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which is playing a key role in shaping health care legislation. She has said she believes individuals should be given choices when it comes to health insurance. In a July guest column in the Democrat-Gazette, Lincoln said “Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan.”

Rummel said the association wanted to provide a contrast to the “mob mentality” of protesters during recent public forums. Its literature has a rock ‘n’ roll theme.

There was no mob in Little Rock, as you can see in this photo — just a group of ordinary Americans who want to make their voices heard as we fight for real health insurance reform.

Little Rock residents were excited about reform at the Highway to Healthcare event on Monday evening. Find more on Flickr.

Monday, August 17, 2009

For a strong public plan option

A quality public health insurance option is a crucial part of health care reform to keep private insurance companies honest, hold down costs and ensure that everybody has a health care choice available. Key to holding down costs for families, for businesses, and for the federal budget is forcing insurance companies to compete. And the only way to force real competition on the insurance companies is a strong public plan option.

Unfortunately, the usual suspects opposed to reform are trying to hijack the reform process and attacking the public health insurance plan option because they are afraid of competition and they want to keep gouging working families. But unless we take decisive steps to stop the crippling rise of health costs, we will have squandered this moment of opportunity.

We will continue to relay that message forcefully to the Senate and the White House.

John Sweeney

Thursday, August 13, 2009

“Highway to Health Care Reform” Tour

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Highway To Health Care GraphicI'm Blaine Rummel, I work at AFSCME in Washington, DC, — and my most important work is health care reform. That's why this month, I won’t be in Washington. I'll be on the road for reform. Starting in North Dakota this Wednesday, AFSCME is taking the fight on the road with our Highway to Health Care Reform Tour; want to come along?

Highway to Health Care Rallies

Monday, August 17
Fayetteville, AR
10:30 AM, Fayetteville Square

Monday, August 17
Little Rock, AR
Barbecue and Concert
6:00 PM, Arkansas State Capital

Tuesday, August 18
Little Rock, AR
10:30 AM, Arkansas State Capital
Let me explain: Congress is on recess this month — but we're not. Health care isn't working for America’s middle class. It's too expensive and too uncertain — and it's crippling our nation's economy. That's why we've rented an RV and converted it into a mobile action center for a month-long road trip of our own. We'll crisscross the country — drive right through Arkansas where the most important votes are — to keep the pressure on Congress to fix health care and to do it now.

That's right. AFSCME is on the Highway to Health Care Reform.

Okay, so Karl, a great intern at AFSCME headquarters, and I are not exactly rock stars playing at arena shows. But believe me, we’re going to rock. We have to, and I hope you'll be right there with us when we deliver the loudest, strongest, message possible — from Bismarck, North Dakota to Bangor, Maine.

Join us. Please consider coming to our one-of-a-kind event in Arkansas and put yourself on our special Highway to Health Care Reform road map. Add your voice to the chorus of people telling Congress that real health care reform just can't wait.

We're closer to real reform than we've ever been — thanks for everything that you've done to help us get this far. We can't allow Congress's recess to slow us down.

Please join our Highway to Health Care Tour by sending a letter to Congress today and adding your name to our map: www.Highway2HealthCare.org. You can also download a special Highway to Health Care Reform poster.

Thanks for your continued pressure on Congress — summer vacation or not. I'll be sure to keep you updated with stories and other easy things you can do to help us pass real reform during the tour. Check back on the Highway to Health Care Reform website for regular tour updates, pictures and more.

Blaine Rummel
AFSCME Legislation Department

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Generation of Labor Activists

The future of the union and social justice movements lies in reaching out to college students, young workers and young voters who are energized by the election of Barack Obama.

Reaching out to young people is a top priority for AFSCME and the AFL-CIO. Speaking at the Texas state federation convention last week, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, a candidate for AFL-CIO president, said:

If there’s anything our labor movement needs, it’s an infusion of younger Americans—the people whose futures are taking a beating at the hands of the Wall Street hucksters and fast-buck artists who’ve driven our economy into a ditch.

We have an opportunity, and indeed an obligation, to continue building stronger worker and student alliances in the fight for worker’s rights. To make the real changes we need, the leadership will come from working with a new generation. AFSCME Local 965 welcomes the next generation of public employees, and we are dedicated to involving this new generation of advocates for working families.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family-Friendly Workplaces

Today’s report by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the Labor Project for Working Families comes at a seminal moment for the debate on economic and labor law reform in this country. This report emphasizes a crucial point - - that unions help families at a time when workers are forced to work more hours in an increasingly unstable environment, and as the social system in our country is being chipped away.

A unionized workplace dramatically helps working families. According to the report, unions increase compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, ensure paid sick leave for employees and their children, and increase the likelihood that health care is covered for families. As corporations force working people to work longer and spend more time away from their home, unions are key to creating an economy that works for everyone and ensuring that workers have flexibility in handling their family and work responsibilities. Corporations have spent billions to try to eliminate benefits like paid sick leave, time off, and health care coverage. Without workers’ freedom to form and join unions, corporations will continue to chip away at the family-friendly practices that help working people across the country.

To download “Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?” go to http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu or
http://www.working- families.org

--Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1,500 Arkansas Workers March for Free Choice

On Saturday July 11th, national labor leaders joined over 1,500 Arkansas workers in Little Rock for a rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which will restore workers’ freedom to join a union and bargain for a better life.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, the first African-American executive officer of the AFL-CIO and widely known civil rights leader, joined other national labor, civil rights, and faith leaders in an historic march and rally. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes, Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Rechenbach, and Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard led hundreds of union and faith and civil rights activists in the first of its kind demonstration in Little Rock.

Early Saturday morning, members of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council and workers from all over Arkansas traveled to meet at Central High School. There, they remembered the sacrifices and contribution of the Little Rock 9 to freedom for all people in America. Led by Arkansas ministers, the assembled marched to another rally on the steps of the State Capitol featuring local faith leaders and local elected leaders in an even louder call for Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. The marchers concluded with an old-fashioned Arkansas catfish fry at the adjacent Arkansas Education Association building.

Workers across America have launched the largest grassroots mobilization effort since the November election to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill will provide workers with a greater voice on the job and will allow them to bargain collectively for higher wages, benefits, and job security. It would additionally allow for workers to join a union through majority sign up and take away the right of corporations to demand a ballot election, giving the choice of majority sign-up or an election to the workers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

20,000 Faculty Gain Bargaining Rights

More than 20,000 faculty members at two midwestern universities are one step closer to good union contracts. Yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state’s biennial budget, which includes a provision [1] extending collective bargaining rights to more than 20,000 University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty, academic staff and research assistants.

The same day, some 430 instructors and adjunct faculty at Western Michigan University (WMU) [2] voted for the Professional Instructors Organization (PIO), an [3] AFT affiliate, to represent them.

The University of Wisconsin victory capped a 40-year effort by faculty members to gain a better life by joining a union. The new law extends to 6,600 full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty and 13,100 academic staff, which includes part-time and full-time lecturers, adjuncts, advisers, IT technicians and others. Another provision gives 3,200 research assistants the right to determine whether they want representation through the state’s first majority sign-up process.

The UW academics were the only nonmanagement public employees in the state without bargaining rights—until now. AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy credits the continued building of workers’ political strength for the victory.

We’ve had the same legislation introduced in the three previous legislative cycles. Each time, we’ve had a chance to educate people and bring them around.

At Western Michigan University, the PIO soon will begin discussions with the WMU administration about better working conditions. Many instructors at WMU have not received any salary increase for 12 years.

Says Karl Schrock, who teaches in WMU’s School of Music:

We are confident that our organizing will help university leaders to see that part-time faculty are an essential component (along with tenure-line faculty and graduate teaching assistants) in the educational enterprise at WMU. We look forward to working with the administration to improve communication, faculty recognition and long-term planning for the university’s mission in ways that will benefit students and the university community as a whole.

These wins follow [4] several other votes in Michigan over the past two years. During that time, new unions representing contingent faculty and graduate employees have formed at Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University, all affiliated with AFT Michigan.

Article reprinted from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG: http://blog.aflcio.org/

URLs in this post:
[1] extending collective bargaining rights: http://www.aftface.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=546
[2] voted for the Professional Instructors Organization: http://www.aftface.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=547&Itemid=63
[3] AFT: http://www.aft.org/
[4] several other votes: http://www.aftface.org/index.php?option=com_search&Itemid=52&searchword=michigan&searchp

Friday, June 26, 2009

National Health Care Reform

Coming from unions, community organizations and all walks of life, nearly 10,000 supporters of health care reform gathered on Capitol Hill today to send a strong message: We demand affordable, high-quality health care for all, and we aren’t waiting any longer.

Every corner of the Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill was filled this afternoon with union members, health care advocates and community activists from across the country, and they heard from not only members of Congress and union leaders, but also from nurses, small business owners, workers and parents who told compelling stories about why we need health care reform.

Like all of the speakers, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker expressed confidence that we can move from an unsustainable health care system to one that protects families and covers everyone:

Health care without cost control will not work. Health care without a quality public option to lower costs is totally unacceptable.

Many rally participants are spending this afternoon at town hall meetings and on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress for real health care reform. In addition to the strong turnout of union members and community organizers, groups including Working America and Democracy for America brought tens of thousands of signatures they’ve collected from people across the country who say we’ve waited long enough for health care reform.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said despite determined opposition from the insurance companies that control our health care now, we have an opportunity to build on and improve our health care system:

Special interests and the health insurance industry will not hijack this process. We must have and we will have a strong public option.

Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz said we need health care reform that controls costs to recover from today’s economic crisis:

This is such an important issue for all of us. It’s always been a moral responsibility, but it’s increasingly an economic imperative.

Other rally speakers included union leaders President Gerald McEntee of AFSCME and President Larry Cohen of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), members of the House and Senate, actress Edie Falco, former Gov. Howard Dean and leaders of a wide variety of grassroots organizations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Confirm Sotomayor

The International Executive Board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has unanimously declared its support for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, and promised to help secure her confirmation by the Senate.

“President Obama’s nomination of distinguished Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is the right move for our nation,” said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. “Judge Sotomayor is exactly the kind of experienced, capable and fair jurist the working men and women of this nation need to serve on our highest court.”

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor has worked to preserve the rights of workers to receive fair pay, health benefits, and to be free of workplace discrimination,” said McEntee. “The Senate should promptly confirm Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.”

Call Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, and ask them to vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor's nomination. You can reach their offices at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

UA Putting Employees Last

Some staff members at the University of Arkansas will get small raises for the next school year, but they still won’t earn what the new statewide pay plan for classified employees says they should.

There are 1,577 classified employees at the university. The plan gives a boost to 386 of those employees making less than the entry-level wage, but in some cases they will still be below the entry level wages. Faculty members will not receive any raises this year.

Chancellor David Gearhart made a big deal about not raising tuition and only slightly raising student fees. “We believe this to be the only responsible course of action for us to take to support our students and their families during these difficult economic times,” said Gearhart in a letter to university employees.

Chancellor Gearhart did not say what he thought would be a responsible course of action for him to take to support faculty, staff, and their families during these difficult economic times.