Thursday, March 21, 2013

Labor Education: Steward Training

Special Topics in Steward Training:

Handling Discipline Grievances

May 2-3, 2013

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Reynolds Building, Room 450

  • Exploring the 7 Tests of Just Cause
  • Understanding Arbitration Standards
  • Investigating and Requesting Information
  • Writing Grievances
  • Special Focus: Handling Attendance Grievances
    • Dealing with Attendance Grievances
    • FMLA and ADA Grievances
Who Should Attend?  Union stewards, grievance committee members, representatives and local union officers involved in grievance handling.
$125 - Early Bird Registration. Deadline: March 28, 2013
$150 - Regular Registration. Deadline: April 11, 2013
For more information contact the Labor Education Program at 501-569-8483, fax at 501-569-8538 or e-mail

CWA Members Agree to Four-Year Deal With AT&T Southwest

Congratulations to our Communications Workers of America Brothers and Sisters on finalizing a difficult collective bargaining agreement with AT&T.
  District 6 covers about 22,000 CWA members at AT&T operations in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.

“Our members in District 6 take great pride in their work, and the district leadership and the CWA bargaining committee believe we have negotiated a fair and just agreement,” said CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings. “Over 60 percent of our members voted in favor of this agreement, which over its life assures them good wages, family health care and job security.”

An earlier tentative agreement was turned down by a narrow margin last month.

AFL-CIO Southern State Federation, Central Labor Council and Community Services Conference

AFL-CIO Southern State Federation, Central Labor Council and Community Services Conference

April 18-21, 2013
AFL-CIO State Federation and Labor Council, and Community Services leaders from all over the southern region will be meeting together to discuss the key issues facing our labor movement and how we can build a stronger labor movement to address these challenges and opportunities.
It has been an incredible two years since we have met in regional conferences. There have been dramatic changes to our movement both positive and negative and we have learned much from these that you will want to share with each other. As leaders in the labor movement it is up to us to Build the Movement for Shared Prosperity and what better place to work on this together but at the 2013 AFL-CIO State Federation and Labor Council Southern Regional Conference.
At this conference we will focus on key legislative issues facing us at the national, state and local levels including the Fiscal Crisis, Immigration and Voter Rights. A comprehensive agenda will be developed over the next several weeks to include: Peer to Peer Discussions, Best Practices and Skill Building Workshops.
We encourage all councils to bring a young worker leader from your organization or affiliate to join you at this conference. We should be deliberate about catching the Next Wave of activists and leaders and give them the opportunity to be a part of these deliberations and skill building workshops.
Southern Region Agenda
Start Time
End Time
Thursday, April 18
8:30 a.m.
9:45 a.m.
Community Services Conference Registration
Thursday, April 18
10:00 a.m.
5:00 p.m.
Community Services Conference
Friday, April 19
9:00 a.m.
12:00 p.m.
Community Services Conference
Friday, April 19
10:00 a.m.
1:00 p.m.
State Fed/Area/CLC Conference Registration
Friday, April 19
1:00 p.m.
6:00 p.m.
State Fed/Area/CLC Conference
Saturday April 20
8:00 a.m.
6:00 p.m.
State Fed/Area/CLC Conference
Sunday, April 21
8:00 a.m.
1:00 p.m.
State Fed/Area/CLC Conference

To register, use the form below. If you are registering additional guests, please return to this form and click this link to log yourself out and generate a clean sign-up page.

Event Location

Sheraton Music City Hotel - $99.00 plus tax 777 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN  37214

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Political Endorsements

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council has endorsed the following candidates for the May 22 primary, judicial and ballot issue elections. After reviewing candidate questionnaires and discussion at the March meeting, we believe that these candidates are highly qualified and share many of our concerns for working families. As always, how you vote is your decision.

Arkansas Supreme Court, Position 4: Raymond Abramson*

Arkansas Court of Appeals, District 3, Position 2: Niki Cung

Circuit Judge, District 4, Division 4: Cristi Beaumont
Circuit Judge, District 4, Division 6: Mark Lindsay

Circuit Judge, District 19, Division 2: Brad Karren
Circuit Judge, District 19, Division 3: Tom E. Smith

State Senate, Dictrict 7, Republican Primary: Jon Woods
State House, District 85, Democratic Primary: David Whitaker

State Senate, Dictrict 7, Democratic Primary: Diana Gonzales Worthen (unopposed)
State House, District 81, Democratic Primary: Wolf Grulkey (unopposed)
State House, District 84, Democratic Primary: Adella Gray (unopposed)
State House, District 86, Democratic Primary: Greg Leding (unopposed)
State House, District 89, Democratic Primary: Yessie Hernandez (unopposed)

Benton County Sheriff, Republican Primary: Kelley Cradduck

Washington County Public Transit Tax: FOR

For more information on this ballot initiative, see

We also recommend signing the petition to place the THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND LOBBYING ACT OF 2012 on the November ballot.
For information on this ballot initiative, see

One endorsement for the November election: Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan

*Note: Judge Jo Hart was endorsed by the Arkansas AFL-CIO. She did not return the Judicial Candidate Questionnaire sent to her by the NWA Labor Council.


Thanks to everyone who contacted Senators Pryor and Boozman on today's vote. The Republican effort to undermine fair union elections was defeated today, 45-54. Senator Pryor voted to keep the NLRB’s rule to help ensure that workers who want to vote to form their own union have a fair opportunity to do so. Senator Boozman, as always, voted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to weaken worker rights. Thanks again for your work!

Corporate-bought politicians are taking aim at workers again. And this time, they’ve got fair elections for workers in the crosshairs.

In December, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency that protects workers’ rights—issued a rule that modernizes the NLRB election process and helps ensure workers have a fair way to form a union without unfair delays and manipulation of the process by employers.

Now, anti-worker politicians in Congress are trying to ram through a resolution to undo this modest step forward for the 99%.

The resolution is headed for a vote in the U.S. Senate this week, and we need your voice in this debate. Please take 30 seconds to write your senators NOW.

By limiting delays and frivolous litigation, the NLRB’s rule helps ensure that workers who want to vote to form their own union have a fair opportunity to do so.

From the day a worker is hired, companies have every opportunity to communicate with employees about the pros and cons of having a union. But extremists have pushed a congressional resolution that would overturn the NLRB’s new election procedures: They’re trying to pay back their corporate donors by slashing workers’ rights on the job once again.

Let your senators know that voters won’t stand for this senseless attack.

The stakes are too high for working families to stay on the sidelines. If corporate-backed politicians pass this week’s attack on fair elections, they’ll:

  • Resurrect the barriers workers face when they want a simple up-or-down vote on forming a union, giving an unfair advantage to law-breaking CEOs.

  • Encourage costly delays and litigation, paving the way for employers who want to retaliate against workers.

  • Make it even harder for employees to form a union and negotiate for fair pay and benefits, weakening the middle class and our chances at a brighter economic future.
From statehouses across the country to Congress, the forces of the 1% are openly and brazenly waging war on workers. This attack on the NLRB is just the latest in this relentless series of nationally coordinated assaults on workers and collective bargaining rights. Rather than working together to create jobs, restore tax fairness and jumpstart our economy, extreme legislators are pushing divisive policies that put workers' rights on the chopping block.

Corporate politicians won’t let up until even the most modest workplace protections have been eliminated. But you can help stop this attack in its tracks.

Tell your senators: Don’t reverse progress for workers.

Thank you for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Smith


Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousand of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.
But our work is not done. Many job hazards are unregulated and uncontrolled. Some employers, like Massey Energy and BP, cut corners and violate the law, putting workers in serious danger and costing lives. Each year thousands of workers are killed and millions more injured or diseased because of their jobs.
The Obama administration has moved forward to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement on serious violators and proposed new safeguards for workplace hazards. But business groups and the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives are attacking these stronger measures, falsely claiming they kill jobs. They are pushing legislation to make it difficult, if not impossible, to issue needed safeguards to protect workers and the public.
We cannot and will not let them turn back the clock and destroy the progress we have made to make jobs safer and save lives. Safety laws and regulations don’t kill jobs—but unsafe jobs do kill workers.
On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe workplaces. This year we will fight to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy. We will fight for the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for respect and a better future. We will demand that the country fulfill the
promise of safe jobs for all.

Workers Memorial Day • April 28, 2012

Decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in
working conditions. The Obama administration has moved forward to strengthen worker protections.
But business groups and the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to
block stronger measures and roll back existing protections. It is time to organize, take action and fight
for safe jobs for workers, including:
  • Defending safety and health protections and workers’ rights from industry attacks.
  • Requiring employers to find and fix hazards and implement a worksite safety and health program to
    prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths.
  • Winning new workplace safeguards for silica, combustible dust and infectious diseases.
  • Prohibiting employer policies and practices that discourage reporting of workplace injuries.
  • Protecting workers from ergonomic hazards that still cripple and injure more workers than any other
    workplace hazard.
  • Increasing attention to the safety and health of Hispanic and immigrant workers who are at much
    greater risk of death and injury.
  • Strengthening protections for miners, including tighter standards for coal dust to protect against
    Black Lung.
  • Passing the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection for all workers who lack
    protection, stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that seriously violate job safety laws
    and improved anti-retaliation protections for workers who raise job safety concerns.
  • Ensuring workers’ right to have a voice on the job, and to freely choose to join a union without
    employer interference or intimidation.

What You Can Do on Workers Memorial Day

  • Organize a rally to demand creation of good jobs and safe jobs in your community.
  • Hold a candlelight vigil, memorial service or moment of silence to remember those who have died on
    the job and to highlight job safety problems in your community and at your workplace.
  • Create a memorial at workplaces or in communities where workers have been killed on the job.
  • Distribute workplace fliers and organize a call-in to congressional representatives during lunch times
    or break times. Tell your members of Congress to oppose efforts to roll back protections and to
    support legislation to create good jobs and safe jobs.
  • Hold a public meeting with members of Congress in their home districts. Bring injured workers and
    family members who can talk firsthand about the need for strong safety and health protections and
    the freedom to join a union. Invite local religious leaders and other allies to participate in the meeting.
    For additionalthat the country fulfill the
    promise of safe jobs for all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Northwest Arkansas Labor Council meeting

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council will meet at 5:30 on Thursday, December 1, in the Conference Room at Martin & Kieklak Law Firm, 2059 Green Acres Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Agenda items include: (1) nomination of officers for 2012; (2) development of candidate questionnaires for state legislative, county, and municipal races; and (3) determination of charitable giving to local nonprofits serving the needs of working families and low-income households.

Please submit any additional agenda items before noon Thursday.

If you are unable to attend, please send an alternate from your local.

Friday, September 2, 2011

On Labor Day, don't forget the movement

A PANEL of experts spent an hour of TV time last month debating this weighty issue: Is organized labor really a special interest?

Let me take a crack at that one:

You're damned right it's special!

If we remembered what it was like for workers before the labor movement, or had a clear vision of how many American workers would take it on the chin without a movement, we'd know how special it is.

As we gorge ourselves with burgers and beer on this Labor Day weekend, we'd do well to give a second thought to the movement that gave us the 40-hour week, an eight-hour day and, yes, weekends.

There was no such thing as a weekend in 1882 when the first Labor Day was celebrated. Blue collar workers hit the clock Monday through Saturday. If they got Sunday off, they were lucky.

"Labor bought the weekend," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of teachers.

"Unions fought for things that the entire society benefitted from, whether they were union members or not. Child-labor laws, disability payments. You don't have to be in a union to get those things."

But you wouldn't have them without a labor movement. We wouldn't have time-and-a-half for overtime or unemployment benefits or health insurance or many of the workplace safety rules in place today.

Without the persistent prodding of the labor movement, there would be no Social Security or Medicare. Organized labor has backed universal health care even though it's not in its self-interest to have government provide a benefit that made union membership more attractive.

You'd have to be a poor student of history to believe that American industrialists would have provided any of those benefits on their own.

If you want to know what big business sees as fair wages and acceptable working conditions, look at what they pay their overseas workers. Textile workers employed by American multinational corporations in Korea and China and South America work for a fraction of what workers are paid even in so-called "right-to-work" states.

But many of us are poor enough students of history to believe that we no longer need to organize in our own interests, or that when we do it harms the American economy. That's what politicians mean when they say that labor unions are a special interest. Respected political figures haul water for these multinationals and mischaracterize U.S. workers without fear of reprisal because most Americans have no idea what the labor movement means to them.

Republican leaders who are opposed to cutting the payroll tax that is paid by even the poorest U.S. workers will fight to the death to keep tax breaks in place for the richest Americans.

Even with some 18 million U.S. workers on unemployment rolls, some elected officials are bold enough to disparage them publicly. U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch equates jobless benefits with welfare payments. Hatch had the gall to propose drug-testing for people who apply for unemployment or welfare benefits.

Gov. Corbett, running in a historically pro-labor state, didn't think twice before suggesting that unemployment wouldn't be as high if more people would just get off their butts.

"The jobs are there," Corbett said, "but if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there."

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are pushing for a "repatriation tax holiday" that would give multinational firms an extra tax incentive to bring overseas profits back into the U.S. economy, and a Democratic president is said to be considering it. Any company that has tried to keep its workforce in America would find itself at an even greater disadvantage.

This despite the fact that the U.S. tax code already includes an offset that allows U.S. companies to reduce their U.S. taxes by the amount they pay to their foreign host countries.

What makes this so bizarre is that the same American workers may see their taxes subsidize companies that replace them with foreign workers.

So, yes, labor is a special interest. It's a good idea to remember that this weekend as we enjoy the burgers and beer and benefits it bought us.

-- Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Governor Beebe Ends Freeze on Cost of Living Adjustments for State Employees

After reviewing state revenues for the first five months of Fiscal Year 2011, Governor Mike Beebe has directed the Department of Finance and Administration to reinstate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), career-service recognitions and merit pay for Arkansas state employees.

"Going into this current budget, we froze state salaries out of an abundance of caution to see how our economy would recover," Governor Beebe said. "After seeing the strength of our economic indicators and remaining ahead of forecast for the year so far, I've decided to reinstate the COLA for our employees."

The COLAs are already built into the current budget and will not impact the funding of any state services or require any budget increases. Career-service recognitions and merit pay are funded through salary savings within existing agency budgets.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Local Food Pantries Need Donations

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, we know that many individuals and families in Northwest Arkansas have nothing to eat and little to celebrate. The recession continues, job opportunities have not returned, and Congress has refused to extend unemployment benefits to those who have lost their job and are looking for work. Many who can find jobs are paid only minimum wage, which is not enough to support a family, and many workers are unpaid or underpaid victims of wage theft.

One in six of our neighbors live below the poverty line and struggles to make ends meet and provide enough food for their family. Arkansas’ childhood poverty rate is 26% - compared to the national average of 18%. Arkansas children are going without food more than any other state in the country according to a new report by Feeding America. One in four children in Arkansas does not get enough to eat in order to sustain their growth and development.

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council voted this week to make financial contributions to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, the Helping Hands Food Pantry in Bentonville, and the Life Source Food Pantry in Fayetteville. We ask that all local unions encourage their members who can to donate canned goods to area food pantries that are helping feed hundreds of Northwest Arkansas families each week.

Please share as you are able.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election a ‘Mandate to Fix the Economy and Create Jobs’

Union Members Jumpstart Renewed Fight to Create Good Jobs

The fight for working families begins again today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Wednesday morning, calling the 2010 election “a mandate to create jobs and fix the economy.”

“We are asking the president and every member of Congress to have the courage to act to create jobs. To stand up to corporate influence in our democracy. And to take bold steps to build an economy that works for everyone,” Trumka said.

Voters suffering from high unemployment, home foreclosures and a faltering economy rejected business as usual in Washington, D.C., and demanded action. “Let’s be clear,” Trumka said. “Working people think there wasn’t enough done to help average people, not that there was over-reach. They wanted results and they didn’t see them.”

By far, jobs and the economy was the top issue for voters-among union members and nonmembers-according to exit polls and an AFL-CIO survey conducted Tuesday night by Hart Research Associates.

“The election results were extremely disappointing for the millions of union families who voted in this election, and for the hundreds of thousands of union volunteers who spent hours working for working family candidates,” Trumka said.

“This election was about the economy and jobs, plain and simple,” Trumka said. “Here’s what it wasn’t: It wasn’t a mandate for the policies most Republicans campaigned on.”

The AFL-CIO poll, conducted in the top 100 swing congressional districts, shows that voters overwhelmingly reject privatizing Social Security and raising the Social Security retirement age; they oppose tax cuts for the top 2 percent who make more than $250,000 a year; they reject abolishing the Department of Education; and they oppose reducing or eliminating the minimum wage.

Voters in the swing congressional districts support a strong investment agenda to create jobs as well as an extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. Fully 89 percent want to see tax credits for companies that create jobs in this country. An extraordinary 77 percent favor investing in rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and energy systems to create jobs. And 76 percent endorse investing in jobs to maintain U.S. competitiveness with China, India and Germany.

The AFL-CIO grassroots campaign was mammoth: 200,000 union volunteers knocked on 8.5 million doors, distributed 19.4 million flyers while talking to workers at their worksites and made tens of millions of phone calls. Members received 24.6 million pieces of union mail.

Additionally, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was active in 13 cities, 9 states and more than 80 electoral races around the country and knocked on nearly 800,000 doors and made half a million phone calls to voters around the country.

But union volunteers’ efforts came up against a flood of anonymous corporate spending through front groups that ran television ads attacking Democrats and supporting Republicans. According to Open Secrets (, 74.2 percent of all contributions in this election cycle were by corporations.

Starting today, union members will shift their grassroots mobilization from election efforts and into a renewed fight to create good jobs and restore the middle class.

“The fight begins again now,” Trumka said.

Trumka said immediate priorities of union members include stepping up the fight to end outsourcing, supporting jobless workers, asking multi-millionaires to pay their fair share and putting that money to work to create good jobs and security for working families and investing to build a 21st century infrastructure.

“We have an energized membership that’s ready to fight, and we’re going to give it everything we have.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

NALC National Hero of the Year

Congratulations to James Dupont, named National Hero of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO). Dupont had just finished delivering mail on his rural Arkansas route when he saw a truck and car collide head-on. The member of Rogers, Arkansas NALC Branch 1514 pulled the driver from the truck and, as the vehicle caught on fire, saved a passenger engulfed in flames. He then managed to bend open the door of the burning car to rescue that driver—injuring himself in the process.

NALC honors its 2010 National Heroes of the Year

Heroes 2010
NALC's National Heroes of the the Year for 2010: (seated, from l) Deborah Czarney and Penny Bell, Muskegon, MI Br. 13; James Dupont, Rogers, AR Br. 1514; Larry Gunkel, Wichita Br. 201; Jeffrey Vollmar, Freehold, NJ Br. 924; (standing, from l) J.D. Stewart and Jack Hayes, Seattle Br. 79; Salli Hislop, Salt Lake City Br. 111. (Not pictured: Thomas Nehlen, Youngstown Br. 385.)

Several letter carriers were recognized for their heroism and community service at a special event Oct. 7 in Washington.

The 2010 National Heroes of the Year are:

Eastern Region Hero: Jeffrey Vollmar, a carrier from Freehold, NJ Branch 924, was delivering mail when he heard a young woman shout that her house was on fire and her mother was still inside. Without concern for his own safety, he ran into the smoke-filled house and found her on the second floor, disoriented. After bringing her outside, he ran back into the house and put out most of the flames.

Central Region Hero: Youngstown Branch 385 letter carrier Thomas Nehlen saw smoke on his route one morning, billowing from a house. He entered without regard for his own safety and helped the residents clustered in the kitchen reach safety outside. Then later that same afternoon, delivering mail in another part of town, he helped a 12-year-old boy who had crashed his bicycle into a van in traffic. Ohio State Chair John Dyce accepted the award on Nehlen's behalf.

Western Region Hero: Salli Hislop was on her mail route when a customer’s dog ran to her truck, barking urgently. Recognizing this as unusual behavior for the dog, the Salt Lake City Branch 111 letter carrier investigated and found the customer lying on his front porch, apparently suffering a heart attack. She performed CPR. Paramedics later revived him, thanks to Hislop’s prompt attention.

Special Carrier Alert: Muskegon, MI Branch 13 carrier Penny Bell was concerned when she noticed mail piling up in an elderly customer’s mailbox, and more worried when she noticed that the hard-of-hearing women’s TV wasn’t on loud as usual. She asked her sub, fellow Muskegon carrier Debbie Czarny, to check on the customer the next day. Seeing the same signs, Czarny pounded on the door, heard a faint voice and got into the house with a neighbor’s key. They found the resident on the floor, where she’d been for four days, disoriented.

Humanitarian of the Year: Larry Gunkel helps feed 35,000 families across Kansas and runs a Food 4 Kids backpack program that provides food over the weekend for several thousand Kansas schoolchildren. Gunkel, former president of Wichita Branch 201, where he began his involvement with feeding people, now is retired and is food program manager for the Kansas Food Bank.

Branch Service Award: Seattle Branch 79 letter carriers were recognized for their work building homes for Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricans Katrina and Rita. Representing the branch were Jack Hayes and J.D. Stewart.

National Hero of the Year: James Dupont had just finished delivering mail on his rural Arkansas route when he saw a truck and car collide head-on. The member of Rogers, Arkansas Branch 1514 pulled the driver from the truck and, as the vehicle caught on fire, saved a passenger engulfed in flames. He then managed to bend open the door of the burning car to rescue that driver—injuring himself in the process.

The 2010 Heroes of the Year represent the efforts of thousands of letter carriers who not only deliver the mail to 150 million households six days a week, but often assist or save residents in situations involving accidents, fires, crimes or health crises.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

1961 Chancellor Tom Butt issues injunction against IBEW Local 700 from picketing Acme Electric at construction site in Springdale, later reversed by Arkansas Supreme Court.

1965 Arkansas Supreme Court holds that union member Clara Andrews may maintain an action upon a collective bargaining agreement to enforce rights that are personal to her.

1994 Chamber of Commerce front Committee to Save Arkansas Jobs raised $1,517,672 to defeat ballot amendment to reform Workers Compensation. More than 25% came from out-of-state insurance corporations.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

1966. Arkansas Supreme Court holds that Chancellor Murray Reed had no authority to issue injunction against pickets of Cone-Huddleston Construction at Searcy.

1972. Searcy Mayor Leslie Carmichael refuses to meet with Bob Allison, Laborers Union Local 1282 and bargaining agent for Searcy sanitation employees seeking medical benefits.

1985. Paper Workers International Union Local 369 and management of Georgia-Pacific's paper mill at Crossett reach mediated tentative agreement to end strike over G-P changes in overtime and holiday schedule.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moratorium on Home Foreclosures

TThe AFL-CIO welcomes the decision by JP Morgan Chase to temporarily halt processing home foreclosures, and we call on the rest of the banking industry to declare a nationwide moratorium on home foreclosures. Millions of working families are on the precipice of losing their homes, and we must stop the avalanche of foreclosures if we are going to save our communities from further economic harm.

In rallies and town hall meetings across the country, union members have demanded that the banks pursue alternatives to foreclosure such as modifying homeowners’ mortgages to more affordable levels. The banks must also stop abusive practices such as the use of “robo-signers” to process thousands of home foreclosures each month without properly reviewing the files associated with each home.

Unemployment is the leading cause of foreclosure, and millions of homeowners have lost their jobs because of the financial crisis and economic recession. Foreclosures hurt the property values of neighborhoods, the credit ratings of homeowners, and the possibility of an economic recovery. The same banks that caused the financial crisis must now do the right thing and stop home foreclosures.

Statement by AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker on
JP Morgan Chase
’s Moratorium on Home Foreclosures
September 30, 2010

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

1919 White planters attack and fire upon a meeting of the Progressive Farmers' and Household Union of America in a church at Hoop Spur, leading to the "Elaine Massacre."

1957 Pluss Poultry of Siloam Springs refuses to abide by arbitrators award in favor of Food Handlers Local 425, Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, regarding dues check off and job postings.

1971 David Gunderfest of Arkansas Retailers Association testifies before U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor for exemptions from raising federal minimum wage to $2.00.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Labor Day, Work to Save the Middle Class

This Labor Day feels gloomy. It’s a celebration of work when there is not enough of it, a day off when too many desperately seek a day on.

America has commemorated two Labor Days since this brutal recession began near the end of George Bush’s presidency in December of 2007. Now the relentless high unemployment, the ever-rising foreclosures, the unremitting wage and benefit take-backs have replaced American optimism and enthusiasm with fear and anger.

Happy Labor Day.

On this holiday, we can rant with Glenn Beck, kick the dog and hate the neighbor lucky enough to retain his job. Or we can do something different. We can join with our neighbors, employed and unemployed, our foreclosed-on children, our elderly parents fearing cuts in their Social Security lifeline and our fellow workers worrying that the furlough ax will strike them next. Together we can organize and mobilize and create a grassroots groundswell that gives government no choice but to respond to our needs, the needs of working people.

We can do what workers did during the Great Depression to provoke change, to create programs like Social Security and achieve recognition of rights like collective bargaining. These changes were sought by groups to benefit groups. In a civil society, people care for one another. And America is such a society – one where people routinely donate blood to aid anonymous strangers, children set up lemonade stands to contribute to Katrina victims and working families find a few bucks for United Way.

The self-righteous Right is all about individuals pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. That proposition – the do-it-all- by-yourself-winner-takes-all philosophy – clearly failed because so many Americans are jobless, homeless and too penniless to afford boots.

Over the past decade, the winner who took all was Wall Street. The banksters gambled on derivatives and other risky financial tomfoolery and won big time. Until they lost. And crashed the economy. After the American taxpayer bailed them out, those wealthy traders returned to making huge profits and bonuses based on perilous schemes.

Still, they believe they haven’t taken enough from working Americans. They’re lobbying to end aid for those who remain unemployed in a recession caused by Wall Street recklessness. And they’re demanding extension of their Bush-given tax breaks. This is the nation’s upper 1 percent, people who earn a million or more each year, the 1 percent that took home 56 percent of all income growth between 1989 and 2007, the year the recession began.

Since 2007, 8.2 million workers have lost jobs. Millions more are underemployed, laboring part-time when they need full-time jobs, or barely squeaking by on slashed wages and benefits. Since the recession began, the unemployment rate nearly doubled, from 5 percent to 9.6 percent, and that does not include those so discouraged that they’ve given up the search for jobs, a decision that is, frankly, understandable when there are only enough openings to re-employ 20 percent of the jobless. Five unemployed workers compete for each job created in this sluggish economy.

And American workers weren’t prepared for this downturn, having already suffered losses in the years before it began. The median income, adjusted for inflation, of working-age households declined by more than $2,000 in the seven years before the recession started.

At the same time, practices like off-shoring jobs and signing regressive international trade deals contributed to the loss of middle class, blue collar jobs. A new report, “The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market,” by the Center for American Progress and The Hamilton Project, says:
“The decline in middle-skill jobs has been detrimental to the earnings and labor force participation rates of workers without a four-year college education, and differentially so for males, who are increasingly concentrated in low-paying service occupations.”

The recession compounded that, the report says:
“Employment losses during the recession have been far more severe in middle-skilled white- and blue-collar jobs than in either high-skill, white-collar jobs or low-skill service occupations.”

What that means is high roller banksters are living large; lawn care workers and waitresses subsist on minimum wage, and working class machinists and steelworkers are disappearing altogether.

The researchers found the U.S. economy is increasingly polarized into high-skill, high-wage jobs and low-skill, low wage jobs. America is losing the middle jobs and with them its great middle class.

No wonder the rising anger in middle-class America.

But fury doesn’t solve the problem. This Labor Day, we must organize to save ourselves and our neighbors. We must stop America from descending into plutocracy. We must demand support for American manufacturing and middle class jobs. That means terminating tax breaks for corporate outsourcers, ending trade practices that violate agreements and international law and punishing predator countries for currency manipulation that subverts fair trade by artificially lowering the price of products shipped into the U.S. while artificially raising the price of American exports.

We must demand support for American industry, particularly manufacturers of renewable energy sources like solar cells and wind turbines that create good working class jobs, increase America’s energy independence and reduce climate change.

We must insist on policies that support the middle class, including preserving Social Security and Medicare, extending unemployment insurance while joblessness remains high, and enforcing the health care reform law so that every American worker and family can afford and is covered by insurance.

On this Labor Day, we should all have a picnic, invite neighbors, friends and family, and over hot dogs and potato salad, organize to save the American middle class.

Mobilize to end the gloom and restore American optimism.


Leo W. Gerard
International President, United Steelworkers
September 3, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Study Highlights the Importance of Workplace Safety

Workers Rate Safety Most Important Workplace Issue in New Labor Day Study

Fatal Accidents Can Trigger Public Concern – But Follow-Through Lags Too Often, Experts Say

More than eight of ten workers — 85 percent — rank workplace safety first in importance among labor standards, even ahead of family and maternity leave, minimum wage, paid sick days, overtime pay and the right to join a union, according to a new study from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

The study, "Public Attitudes Towards and Experiences with Workplace Safety," draws on dozens of surveys and polls conducted by NORC, one of the nation's leading academic survey operations, think tanks and public opinion firms. NORC’s analysis sought to gain a picture of Americans' experiences with workplace safety issues. The study was done for the Public Welfare Foundation, based in Washington, DC, which supports efforts to improve workers' rights.

Despite widespread public concern about workplace safety, the study also found that the media and the public tend to pay closest attention to safety issues when disastrous workplace accidents occur. Even during those tragedies, the fate of workers is often overlooked, such as during the recent oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Workplace safety is too often ignored or accidents taken for granted," said Tom W. Smith, director of NORC’s General Social Survey (GSS). "It is striking that coverage in the media and public opinion polls has virtually ignored the 11 workers killed by the blowout and destruction of the drilling platform."

Instead, Smith pointed out, the media coverage and the polls focused on the environmental impact of the disaster, overlooking the worker safety aspects. But he noted that "if optimal safety had been maintained, not only would the lives of the 11 workers been saved, but the whole environmental disaster would have been averted."

Robert Shull, Program Officer for Workers’ Rights at the Public Welfare Foundation, stated that, "Workplace safety should be a constant concern. Given the importance that workers themselves place on this issue, we should not have to mourn the loss of people on the job before government and employers take more effective measures to ensure that employees can go home safely after work."

On August 19, the U.S. Department of Labor reported in a preliminary count that the number of workers who died on the job in 2009 fell 17 percent from the previous year, as workers clocked in for fewer hours because of the recession. While Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis called the results “encouraging,” she also noted that "no job is a good job unless it is also safe."

Despite a decrease in workplace fatalities, the study found reports of incidents of injury at work to be high.

Although most workers say they are satisfied with safety conditions at work, they also report job-related stress, a contributing factor to injury. The most recent NORC study on job-related stress, done in 2006, reported that 13 percent of workers find their jobs always stressful, while 21 percent find their jobs often stressful.

"Exhaustion, dangerous working conditions and other negative experiences at work are reported by many workers," Smith said. "Such conditions mean that workplace accidents are far from rare."

The new study done for the Public Welfare Foundation found that about 12 percent of workers reported an on-the-job injury during the past year and 37 percent said they have required medical treatment at one time for a workplace injury.

"Unsafe working conditions end up costing the public dearly," added Shull. "But no matter what the cost to the general public, the workers and their families pay the highest price."

The survey report is available here.

Known since its founding in 1941 as the National Opinion Research Center, NORC conducts high-quality social science research in the public interest. To learn more about NORC, visit The General Social Survey is supported with grants from the National Science Foundation.

The Public Welfare Foundation is a national foundation with assets of more than $460 million that supports efforts to ensure fundamental rights and opportunities for people in need. Its current primary areas of focus are Workers’ Rights, Health Reform, and
Criminal and Juvenile Justice. For more information, please visit

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Endorsements for September 21st School Elections

Fighting for the Importance of Public Education - For Our Children, Our Economy, Our Communities and Our Future

A strong public education system is essential to the individual and collective well-being of our state and its people, and to the development of an informed and engaged citizenry, without which no democracy can exist and flourish. A strong, universal system of public education is the foundation of the American middle class, and is vital to the survival of the United States as a broadly middle class society in the global economy. The guarantee of access to a free and quality public education should be a right accorded to every child in this country. Securing that guarantee should be a goal and a value that unites all Americans and is supported by our public policies and policymakers at every level.

At this time in the history of our country, all those who support public education, as the labor movement has historically done—who believe in its centrality to our national vitality and are committed to strengthening this institution so every child, in every corner of the country, has access to a great education—should come together to affirm this commitment. A public education system in all its component parts—pre-K, K-12 and higher education—can be strong, vital and productive only with the broad support, commitment and participation of all sectors of our communities.

To advance those important goal, the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council makes the following endorsements for the September 21st school elections in Northwest Arkansas. We urge our member unions and organizations and all working families in Northwest Arkansas to vote for a stronger system of public education. How you vote is your personal decision, but we believe that the following candidates and millage decisions will advance the quality of public education for our children, our economy, our communities, and our future.


FOR Bryn Bagwell, Fayetteville School Board, Zone 2. Ms Bagwell was named a 2010 Outstanding Volunteer in the Fayetteville Public Schools, and she brings a strong background in public finance that will be very helpful as the district completes construction plans and addresses budget issues to assure adequate teachers’ salaries.

FOR the 2.75 mill increase to complete Phase 2 of the Fayetteville High School project. In June the district was awarded $31.4 million of 0% interest Qualified School Construction Bonds that can be used for completion of Phase 2 of the new high school, but only if Fayetteville voters pass a millage increase by December 2010.


FOR Daniel Marzoni, Greenland School District, Zone 5. Mr. Marzoni is a retired classroom teacher and educational association leader who understands the issues facing the recently reinstated Greenland School District.


FOR the 2.4 mill increase to help pay for nearly $70 Million in upcoming school projects. The state has pledged additional $15 Million if construction begins on the projects by January of next year. "This millage is designed to build a middle school, a junior high, an athletic facility at Har-Ber High and renovation of Springdale High School football stadium

Those who have dedicated their careers and lives to providing a public education to our children should be recognized for their contributions, supported and included in our efforts to continuously improve our education system and to ensure that the students in every public school have equal opportunity and access to highly qualified teachers, staff and instructional resources. The complex and considerable challenges facing public education require a public school environment that fosters thoughtful solutions, shared responsibility, consideration of proven strategies and programs and public education policies that help ensure access to the excellent education every child deserves.

For the past several years, we have been living through the most severe recession since the Great Depression, which has affected public education, not just through cuts to core programs, but through job losses that destabilize students’ families, cuts to other critical services that the communities depend on, and stress that pulls at the social fabric that unites us. Rather than fostering an environment that allows for thoughtful, collaborative solutions, so-called “reformers” focus instead on imposing unproven programs and polices that shake the foundation of our schools, neighborhoods and communities. Public education is a public responsibility and must be a public trust.

Our shared pain, rather than divide us, must instead become the impetus for our shared efforts to force a commitment to programs and polices designed to invest, not disinvest, in public education and other vital public services to ensure opportunities for lifelong learning Exclusionary approaches, simplistic slogans and punitive strategies that substitute for real solutions, such as the mass removal of both instructional and non-instructional personnel from low-performing schools without regard to the investments that have not been made in those schools, distract from the important work needed to strengthen public education, divide our communities and undermine public education, which is the institution that has the potential and purpose of creating equal opportunities for all our children.

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council is united in opposing shortsighted arguments that focus on affixing blame rather than finding solutions to the problems that confront our schools in this time of economic crisis. The labor movement opposes any effort to pit public sector and private sector workers against each other. All workers deserve adequate health care and retirement security. The labor movement understands that until private sector workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is restored, no public sector worker is economically secure. And we also understand that attacks on public sector workers are led by those whose goals is to weaken and impoverish all workers.

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council will support all efforts to show that working with labor is part of the solution. We will redouble our efforts to make common cause with communities and will act—not just one day or one week but every day—to mobilize support for the programs and policies critical to building strong and vibrant education systems and communities throughout America.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ask a Working Woman

It’s simple: Working women are the experts on the challenges working women face at work, at home and getting by in a tough economy. And if you want to know something, the best thing to do is ask an expert.

That’s what Working America and the AFL-CIO are doing with the 2010 Ask a Working Woman survey, and they could use your help.

If you’re a working woman (whether you work outside or inside your home), please take seven minutes to complete the survey. This is your chance to share how you feel about your job, how the recession has affected your family and what you hope and worry the next five years will bring.

For more than 12 years now, Working America and the AFL-CIO have been surveying women every two years or so, asking about their concerns and experiences, the challenges they face and the hopes they hold. You can be sure decision makers and the media will hear what you and tens of thousands of other women have to say. Please, take the survey now.