Friday, March 27, 2009

Mayor Jordan Stands with Local 965

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, former President of AFSCME Local 965 and former President of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council, was honored yesterday for his career of service to working families and the community.

Jordan served as President of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council from 2006-2008 but resigned after he took office as Mayor in January 2009, following his policy of serving only on boards of organizations that are covered by the Arkansas Freedom of information Act. He served as President of AFSCME Local 965 from 2000-2006 until he was promoted to a management position and was precluded from holding that office by the by-laws of the local union.

After addressing the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council yesterday, Mayor Jordan signed a new union card to rejoin AFSCME Local 965, the first Fayetteville city employee to do so this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Labor Council Honors Mayor Jordan

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council will host a reception honoring Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Past President of the NWA Labor Council, at 4:30 pm on Thursday, March 26th, at the Martin and Kieklak Law Firm offices at 2059 Green Acres Road in Fayetteville.

AFSCME Local 965 will be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs for the event, so come hungry and join with other local unions to congratulate Brother Lioneld.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Campus Town Hall Meeting Tuesday

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan will be holding a Town and Gown Town Hall Meeting on the University of Arkansas campus this week. The event will be in Old Main Giffels Auditorium from 12:30 to 1:30 on Tuesday, March 24th.

This is an opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to learn more about our local government and to ask questions about the programs and policies of city government. All members of AFSCME Local 965 are encouraged to attend during their lunch break.

Mayor Jordan will be joined by several city department heads, including Police Chief Greg Tabor, Trails Coordinator Matt Mihalevich, Parks and Recreation Director Connie Edmonston, Sustainability Coordinator John Coleman, Bryan Pugh from Recycling and Composting Facilities, and Yolanda Fields from Community Development and Code Enforcement.

Chief of Staff Don Marr will also discuss opportunities for citizen involvement and service on city boards and commissions that deal with environmental concerns, historic preservation, sidewalks, trails, trees and landscape, support for the arts, Fayetteville Public Library, Yvonne Richardson Center, telecommunications policy, and the Council of Neighborhoods.

The last 30 minutes of the meeting will be devoted exclusively to questions from the audience.

We Need Labor Law Reform

Millions of America's working families are losing their jobs and even their homes, while millions more are seeing their job-based benefits cut back or eliminated and their wages stagnate.

Our elected leaders need to tackle this economic crisis, the worst since the 1930s Depression. They must keep their promises to the people who voted for them—and we have to give them the support they need to make the tough choices. We need strategies that will turn around this broken economy for working families with good jobs, "green" jobs, re-regulation of our financial system and health care that works for all of us. But no matter what else we do, it won’t result in real shared prosperity unless we restore workers’ freedom to form unions so they can bargain for better benefits, fair wages and a better life.

As President Obama said in January when launching the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families:

We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement.

That’s what proposed legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, will dolevel the playing field and make the freedom to form unions and bargain a reality. The Employee Free Choice Act will:

  • Put real teeth in the laws that are supposed to bar companies from intimidating, harassing—even firing—workers who want to form unions.
  • Allow workers, not management, to decide how they form a union and give workers the option of majority sign-up.
  • Require arbitration to end corporate foot-dragging when workers try to get a first contract.

The Employee Free Choice Act will level the playing field that today leaves all the power in the hands of corporations, not workers. And that’s not important just for workers who are trying to form unions: Everyone in the job market, including current union members who want to negotiate fair contracts, benefits from this “strength in numbers.” More union members means more power for workers across states and industries, leading to better health care, more pensions and fairer wages for all workers.

The corporations whose greed has driven our economy understand this, too. That's why Big Business and its corporate front groups are preparing an all-out, $200 million propaganda and lobbying war to block it.

The corporate campaign is aimed at spreading falsehoods about the Employee Free Choice Act, aimed at driving a wedge between workers and the unions that represent them. Despite the fact that nearly 30,000 workers a year are discriminated against and coerced by their employers during attempts to form a union (compared with fewer than 50 confirmed incidents of union misbehavior in the 70-year history of the NLRB), these shady front groups pose as defenders of workers’ rights, making false claims of union coercion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Know Your Rights

Two recent United States Supreme Court decisions strengthen employee protections.

On January 21, 2009, a unanimous opinion in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee written by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court reversed the First Circuit and held that plaintiffs suing for gender discrimination under Title IX may also assert constitutional claims under Section 1983. The Court reviewed the history of Title IX and found no evidence that Congress intended that legislation to preclude constitutional claims to redress gender discrimination under Section 1983. The Court noted that Title IX is modeled after Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which addresses racial discrimination in education, and Title VI has long been held not to preclude parallel and concurrent Section 1983 claims. Therefore, the Court reasoned, “Title IX was not meant to be an exclusive mechanism for addressing gender discrimination in schools, or as a substitute for § 1983 suits as a means of enforcing constitutional rights.” The Court therefore remanded the case, allowing claimants to proceed on both their Title IX and the Section 1983 claims.

On January 26, 2009, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed and remanded the Sixth Circuit decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville.The Supreme Court reviewed the conflict among circuit courts and held that the “opposition” clause of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provisions protects an employee who testifies in an internal investigation of alleged harassment. The Court ruled that Title VII’s protection “extends to an employee who speaks out about discrimination during an employer’s internal investigation.” The Supreme Court ruling did not reach the issue of whether the “participation clause” of the anti-retaliation provisions also protects such an employee.

For additional information on these cases, see the AAUP’s Web site.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Big Lie

The Big Lie About the Employee Free Choice Act

March 5th, 2009

By AFSCME President Gerald McEntee

America’s top CEOs — the clueless millionaires whose greed, ignorance and arrogance drove our economy off a cliff — have declared their top legislative priority for 2009. It isn’t the president’s budget. It’s not promoting jobs or health care for their workers. And it’s certainly not limits on CEO pay.

Instead, they’ve launched an all out campaign to scuttle bi-partisan legislation that would restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. The legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, fixes a broken system and would restore the promise of the American Dream for working Americans. It must be a key component of our efforts to rebuild the middle class, promote economic growth and create an economy that works for all Americans.

America’s CEOs have made the defeat of this bill their biggest goal in 2009. To spearhead their campaign, they’ve hired Rick Berman, a shadowy P.R. man who has spent his career attacking nonprofits, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, through phony front groups and misleading advertisements. Berman made a name for himself by winning huge fees working for clients including the tobacco and alcohol industries, mounting campaigns to defeat or weaken drunk driving laws, quieting concerns about cigarettes, and blocking increases in the minimum wage.

Berman specializes in Big Lie campaigns. That’s why the CEOs have hired him. The Chamber of Commerce, The National Association of Manufacturers and other front organizations for the CEOs have decided that they can’t oppose the Employee Free Choice Act on the merits, so they’ll create a Big Lie to raise concerns about the bill. The lie they’re promoting is that the bill would eliminate secret ballots for workers forming a union.

The claim is simply not true. The bill gives workers, not their employer, the choice in how they choose to form unions: either after a majority of workers sign a card in support of the union or through a secret ballot election. Workers could choose elections, but the opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act don’t care about the truth. They’ve already begun spending $200 million to spread the lie that the bill eliminates secret ballots, hoping that enough people will believe it to kill the bill. That’s why we need to call them on their lie.

The real reason CEOs oppose the bill is because they know that giving workers a better chance at forming a union will undercut corporations’ ability to keep the rewards only to themselves. Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott - who made about $23 million in 2007 - is one of the few CEOs to tell the truth about his motives. He admits that the secret ballot canard isn’t the real reason he’s fighting to kill the bill. “We like driving the car,” he said, “and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”

Playing fast and loose with the truth is not going to defeat this important legislation in Congress. In the last Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin, and in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has helped to build a solid majority of Democrats to support the bill. Thanks to Senator Reid, we now have a senate majority that supports giving workers a ticket to the middle class. But Republican senators have threatened a filibuster. Too many Republicans appear to be frightened that if they stand up to the Big Lie about secret ballots, they will upset the leaders of the their party. They know from experience that those leaders - anti-worker talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity - will make it difficult for them to stand with America’s workers.

That’s why it’s important to keep the facts in front of the GOP senators. They need to be reminded that union members earn 30 percent more than workers who don’t have one. Union members are 63 percent more likely to have health care through their employers. That’s why workers want to join unions. CEOs don’t want to pay more so that workers can live better.

Americans want an economy that works for everyone, not just CEOs and right wing radio and TV talk show hosts. The Employee Free Choice Act will help rebuild the middle class and jumpstart our economy, by giving every worker a chance to bargain for decent wages, benefits and safe working conditions. A union job is not only a ticket for workers into the middle class, it’s the best way to jumpstart our economy.