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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Academics for Employee Free Choice

University of Arkansas faculty from the J William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences held a news conference on campus today. They joined university and college teachers, scholars, and research scientists from both public and private higher education institutions across Arkansas, who are calling for public policy decisions to be informed by facts. Unfortunately, the current national debate on enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act has been distorted by unsupported assertions that ignore the available empirical evidence.

Arkansas Academics for Employee Free Choice today released copies of two recent studies that directly touch on arguments being made in the national debate. The first refutes the claim that the current process is working and documents increasing employer hostility to organizing efforts (No Holds Barred). The second is a survey of four states where majority sign-up is working, and it found no instances of intimidation by either employers or unions (Majority Authorization and Union Organizing in the Public Sector). "In brief, from 2003-2009 in the states studied, a total of 34,148 public sector workers employed in state, county, municipal and educational institutions voluntarily joined a union. Most importantly, contrary to business claims, in 1,073 cases of union certification and in at least 1,359 majority-authorization campaigns, there was not a single confirmed incident of union misconduct". They expressed their hope that Senator Pryor and Senator Lincoln will take the time to review these studies and become better informed by the facts.

In addition, a recent article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that points out another failure of the current process that can be remedied by the Employee Free Choice Act. Even when employees vote for union representation under current NLRB rules, there is no requirement that employers negotiate in good faith or in a timely manner. Following the article is a timeline documenting the history of one corporate employer that refused to meet with employees for over nine years, and only did so after being ordered to do so by the courts and a long, unnecessary, and expensive legal battle. EFCA would encourage more timely good faith negotiation to avoid arbitration.

Academics for Employee Free Choice sent a letter to Senators Pryor and Lincoln. It is signed by more than 40 academics from across Arkansas, including 18 at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The letter clearly explains the reasons why they support enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act to make sure that the economic recovery includes everyone and allows working families to share in the American Dream of a better life for themselves and their children.

AFSCME Local 965 members Betty Martin, Michael Pierce, Lindsley Smith, Trish Starks, and Stephen Smith were among those attending and participating in today's news conference.