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.