Friday, October 29, 2010

Working Families Vote!

Vote. Get your family to vote, your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers to vote. Vote for the candidates who will fight for the interests of middle class working families in Arkansas and the nation.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

AFSCME and the Election

This election is about the key issues that affect you and your communities: job creation, your rights on the job, policies that create jobs here at home.

The Wall Street bankers who drove the economy off the cliff – the corporations outsourcing good jobs overseas, anti-union contractors who want to take away your hard-earned wages – they are spending millions to take over Congress and even state offices here in Arkansas.

We can’t match them dollar for dollar. But we have the power of a mobilized membership.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to vote on the issues that matter to us as working people. It’s not about partisanship. It’s about our jobs and our future.

Get informed, get involved and vote. We can’t afford to sit this one out. How you vote is your personal decision, but your union has endorsed the following candidates, because we believe they have a better understanding of the issues affecting working families and will stand up for us. We have also done an analysis of the proposed constitutional amendments and taken positions on two of them.


AGAINST Issue No. 2 for a Constitutional Amendment to remove the interest rate ceiling on bonds, defer the rate on some loans to the federal government, and affirm a 17% interest ceiling on consumer loans. Vote NO on Issue 2 to prevent the increase in interest rate ceilings.

AGAINST Issue No. 3, a proposed Constitutional Amendment abolishing the people's right to vote and decide whether to approve bonds creating public debt and gives that power exclusively to the legislature. Vote NO on Issue 3 to protect the power of the people from the lobbyists.


Steve Zega for Circuit Judge

Earl Hunton for State Representative, District 87
Jim House for State Representative, District 89
Mark Swaney for State Representative, District 90
Greg Leding for State Representative, District 92

Barbara Fitzpatrick for Quorum Court, JP District 6

Mark Kinion for City Council, Ward 2
Rhonda Adams for City Council, Ward 4


U.S. Senate: No Position

U.S. Congress, Third District: David Whitaker

Arkansas Constitutional Offices

Governor: Governor Mike Beebe

Lieutenant Governor: Senator Shane Broadway

Attorney General: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

Secretary of State: County Clerk Pat O'Brien

State Treasurer: State Treasurer Martha Shoffner

Auditor of State: Charlie Daniels

Commissioner of State Lands: L.J. Bryant

Nonpartisan Judicial Runoff

State Supreme Court Assoc. Justice Position 6: Court of Appeals Judge Karen Baker

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Week in Arkansas Labor History

1963 -- AFSCME Local 965 calls first public employee strike in the South, as 300 physical plant employees set picket lines at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, to protest UA administration recalcitrance on wages and benefits.

Employee Discontent
In 1962, ten employees of the University of Arkansas formed a labor union as a result of failed contract negotiations. Local 965 received its official union charter on April 1, 1962.1 It was not until October of 1963 that Local 965 garnered statewide attention and momentum in it labor negotiations. The unfair labor practices and wage rates of the University of Arkansas forced Local 965, under the leadership of founder and President Rex Rice, to threaten and eventually engage in a non-teaching employee strike.2 A formal press release by Rice outlined the discontent of the employees, the anticipation of the strike, and the choice of timing. Rice knew that the weekend of October 6-7 was an opportune time as the dependency of non-teaching employees would be high. The University was hosting members of the Arkansas General Assembly and state constitutional officers at the annual Legislative Weekend. In addition to these high profile guests the University was playing host to 225 attorneys with the Legislative Institute and it was the SEC season football opener. The impact of the strike would be greater during this period although Rice expresses that he is unclear of how long the strike would last.3 On Friday, October 5th, the strike became a reality with 76 employees forming a picket line.4 The immediate response by University of Arkansas President Dr. David W. Mullins was one of justification. Mullins did little to acknowledge the stance of the union but simply stated that the University’s lack of response was due to legal boundaries that negated negotiations with labor unions. John Hale, international representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees stood behind the picketers of Local 965 and a significant amount of non-union employees. Hale stated that the effects of the strike were beginning to be felt by University Administrators.5 While this may have been assumed, little evidence in the statements of University officials support this belief. Mullins simply stated that service levels on Monday (day four) were the same as day one of the strike. On Tuesday, October 9th, Chancellor Thomas F. Butt issued a restraining order against the picketing employees.6 Butt also being a judge issued the injunction stating that the picketer’s methods of demonstration were unlawful. Some of the arguments for the unlawfulness of the demonstration were that it was ruining University property, interfered with the use of property, and that picketers were threatening and intimidating other employees of the University. The injunction did have an impact in that it broke the picket line from re-forming but it had little impact on employees returning to work.7 By this time the effects of the strike were more readily apparent. With a wide base of support by non-union employees and other union members who are not directly employed by the University, more and more supporters were leaving to join the strike. A significant amount of employees in certain dorm cafeterias had left and union workers employed by contracting agencies to work on the construction of buildings around campus failed to show up in support of the union efforts.8 On October 12, a special meeting was held by the executive committee of the Arkansas AFL-CIO to appeal to Governor Faubus for assistance in convincing the University to enter into negotiations with the Union.9 While Faubus did not attend the meeting due to prior engagements, state Labor Commissioner Bill Laney did. Laney refuted Mullins claim that the University cannot engage in contract negotiations with a labor union and added that the University had been found in violation of state labor laws in the past. Laney did have the opportunity to discuss the labor issues with Mullins but there is little evidence to support anything positively conclusive from this talk. Mullins did state that the University could not engage in contract labor unless there was some certainty that money appropriated by the legislature was in fact available. The following Monday, Faubus issued a statement saying he would not become personally involved but would work to get the two sides together to discuss the dispute.10 At the suggestion of Faubus, the University Board of Trustees, led by Dallas P. Raney, conceded to launching an investigation.11 On October 18th, employees returned to work, ending the 13-day strike.12

The primary argument of Local 965 employees was inappropriate wages and unfair employment practices. Union officials stated that the pay for University employees started at 75 cents an hour, a wage far below what was apparently livable. There was also numerous accounts of employees (particularly women) who worked 12-15 hours but only compensated for eight. Employees sent letters to Governor Faubus telling of the difficulty of raising kids on the wages paid by the University.13 The strike was the public display of discontent and became the rallying point for employees outside of Local 965. University employees who were not members joined the union as it grew in momentum. This brought greater impact for the union as their effect was multiplied. In displays of solidarity with Local 965, other labor unions joined in the strike by not showing up for work. The main argument of the union was rather simple, enter into negotiations or endure the strike. While the focus of the argument is specific hygienic factors that are points of contention, most evidence supports the desire for simple negotiations and discussion. This was made difficult by the arguments of the University. The main message of focus for the University was the principle that state institutions could not engage in contract negotiations. Mullins cited the Arkansas Attorney General decision that in disputes such as this, the decision is one of legislatures and not of the University. This surely proved frustrating for Union members as University officials put up a quick wall of silence in negotiation requests. The Board of Trustees also had an enacted a policy a year earlier stating the University’s position in contract labor negotiation but it is unclear whether the policy is based on similar legal arguments or simply a matter of internal policy. The arguments of the University did little to quiet the union. The strike would continue until negotiations occurred. The two positions were deadlocked with no end in sight until the University sought legal injunction against the actions of the picketing employees. Of interest is the fact that the person seeking the injunction and the judge granting the injunction are the same person, Thomas F. Butt. The apparent irony and transparency of this legal move is never noted in historical documentation. The union responded with threatening to appeal to the State Supreme Court but in the immediate problem the union was forced to end the picketing campaign. Public interest in the growing controversy on campus continued as employees did not return to work. The University continued to defend its stance of legality in contract negotiations while minimally defending its wage rates as being competitive when benefits are taken into account.14 The final argument was made by union supporters15 in the appeal to Governor Faubus in his assistance to end the strike.
It is the author’s opinion that the union was the most effective in their use of messages and basis of arguments. In the end, the union got what they demanded, an investigation and a commitment to seek pay increases.16 The key instrument in expediting this outcome was the intervention of Governor Faubus. While Faubus clearly did not want to be used as a tool in the strike and wished to remain impartial17 his interest in seeing the two sides talk had a significant impact on the outcome as this was the primary interest of the union. The outcome from the special investigation into the employment practice yielded no pay increase as it was found to be competitive with other regional institutions.18 It did offer some benefit in the issue of overtime. With many reports of employees working 12-15 hour days this was addressed in the final report. The Board of Trustees explained that it the University did not have the budgetary allocations to pay overtime but it would extend comp time benefits beyond the normal 30-day period to one of 90 days.
More than the simple victory in winning one of the two major points of contention with the union employees was the victory of legitimization. For the union, it forced the University to recognize the impact labor unions can have on the daily operations. The Board of Trustees acknowledged the right of employees to unionize (as long as discussion took place outside of duty hours)19 but there is little evidence of policy transformations (post-strike) regarding the ability to negotiate in labor contract. The effectiveness of the Union messages and actions had a stronger impact than the organizational and legal silence used by the University. The Union took a gamble in that the individual endurance of the striking employees would ultimately dictate the outcome of the argument. The Board of Trustees still did not recognize the importance of the strike. Dallas P. Raney, Chairman of the board, states in a letter to Governor Faubus that “I can understand how employees may be led astray and into mistakes. I think this is what has happened to the employees now on strike against the University of Arkansas…”20 While the Board of Trustees and University officials did not agree with the statement of striking, they surely believed in the potential for organizational impact.
The strike by Local 965 was not isolated within the confines of the University of Arkansas grounds. The public attention of the strike grew quickly and garnered statewide media attention. Other groups, both on campus and off campus joined the effort to end the strike amicably. One of the first groups to become involved was the Young Democrat Club at the University.21 The group adopted a resolution that vilified the University’s labor practices as “immoral, unethical, and unfair.”22 The Young Republicans soon sent out a similar, but less harsh, statement saying that the wages paid to University employees were “disgracefully low.”23 Together, the Young Democrats Club and the Young Republicans Club released a joint statement stating the need for a “public airing of differences” to be able to resolve the labor strike.24 Various Methodist, Christian, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian campus church groups adopted a similar resolution to urge University officials to negotiate with the labor union.25 The Fayetteville Junior Chamber of Commerce actively sought the University’s participation in debates with the Local 965 that was tentatively scheduled for October 20th by the Young Republicans Club and the Young Democrats Club.26
The faculty senate released a statement stating their disappointment with the labor situation on campus. They stated “It has been deeply disturbing to us in our work to be required to cross the picket line of employees whose demands are so entirely just and reasonable.”27 While there is no evidence of formal repercussions for statements of support to the labor union these did catch the attention of University officials. In response to a report by President Mullins to the Board of Trustees, there was discussion on the loyalty of the Young Democrats Club, the various campus religious groups, and the petitioning professors to the University of Arkansas institution.28

Local 965 was effective in its organization and framing of the strike. It reached a variety of diverse audiences from other labor unions, civic groups, campus organizations to the Governor’s office. While University officials never conceded to the union’s strike (as it is unlikely that any organization ever will) it did bring validity to the effectiveness of labor unions. Local 965, which had struggled to gain membership and credibility initially29 quickly garnered wide support for its strike and calls for negotiation. It is the authors opinion that had not wide this wide support been gained the University would have eventually won out. The employees were easily disposed of and the University posted advertisements in local newspapers calling for applicants to fill “certain prominent full-time maintenance service positions.”30 With high public support for the causes of the striking employees and the intervention of Governor Faubus, the Board of Trustees were quick to act and issued an almost immediate response following the public statement of Faubus. Further research is needed to see the long-term impact of the strike by Local 965. There is little evidence that much was conceded by the University in request of the union but the impact may have been delayed and felt by the next generation of employees. In the immediacy concluding the strike, the Local 965 can claim a certain level of victory in breaking the silence of the University of Arkansas.

Brad Brewster, 2006