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