Saturday, March 27, 2010


Arkansas Constitutional Offices

Triple Endorsement for Secretary of State:

Doris Tate; Mark Wilcox; County Clerk Pat O’Brien

Comm. of State Lands:

Representative Monty Davenport

U.S. Senate

Lt. Governor Bill Halter

U.S. House

1st District:

Chad Causey

2nd District:

Joyce Elliott

State Supreme Court

Duel Endorsement for Assoc. Justice Position 3:

Court of Appeals Judge Courtney Henry; Judge John Fogleman

Duel Endorsement for Assoc. Justice Position 6:

Court of Appeals Judge Karen Baker; Judge Tim Fox

Court of Appeals

Associate Judge District 2 Position 1:

Court of Appeals Judge Jo Hart

State Senate

Dual Endorsement for District 19:

State Rep. Gene Shelby; Q. Byrum Hurst

District 21:

Rep. Steve Harrelson

District 22:

State Rep. Dawn Creekmore

State Senate

Dual Endorsement District 34:

Jay Barth; Linda Pondexter Chesterfield

State House

District 22:

Krystal Thrailkill

District 27:

Vicky Morris

Dual Endorsement District 31:

Debbie Murphy; Scott Pace

Dual Endorsement District 34:

Terri Hollingsworth; John W. Walker

District 35:

Fredrick “Fred” Love

District 39:

State Rep. Richard Carroll

District 92:

Greg Leding

All primaries above are Democratic Primaries. The Arkansas AFL CIO has taken no position on any contested primary not listed above.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Immediate Effects of the Health Care Reform Act: March 2010

Immediate effects of the health care reform act signed this week: March 2010

Health Insurers cannot deny children health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the discrimination in adults will take effect in 2014

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to 50% of employee premiums

Seniors will get a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50 percent of the donut hole will be filled.

The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance rises to the age 27.

Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2014.

A temporary high-risk pool will be set up to cover adults with pre-existing conditions. Health care exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.

New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018

Insurance companies can no longer cut someone when he or she gets sick.

Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.

Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.

New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.

Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.

Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.

The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55-64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.

A two-year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Terry Jones Tells the Northwest Arkansas Times

Editorial On Unions Cheap Shot

— Your recent editorial blaming unions for the troubles of the U.S. Postal Service (March 5) is another conservative cheap shot.

In the early years, providing health care benefits instead of giving deserved increases in salaries was regarded as a benefit to companies - not to the workers. Companies like the Postal Service also started providing pensions instead of raises because it was cheaper. Now health care prices have skyrocketed due to free enterprise. Interest rates are almost at zero in an attemptby the feds to bail out failing corporations, so pensions are also suffering on corporate books.

Now just what is it that the postal union has done? It accepted the cheap benefits provided by its contract with the U.S. Postal Service instead of fighting for fairer wages. Now you conservative-Republicanfree-enterprisers would like to rob the postal workers of both medical insurance and pensions so the service won’t have to raise the price of stamps.

How Enron-ic of you. Unions did not hijack the Postal Service.

Stupid management, greed and lack of foresight on the part ofexecutives hijacked the Postal Service. But that is the American way. Blaming unions for the failure of corporations and blaming the victims of medical malpractice for the cost of health insurance are just lame excuses for corporate mismanagement.

There are hundreds of things the Postal Service can do - like closing small post office branches - to reduce costs and meet its commitments.

When did it become popular for this newspaper to kick the little guys?

TERRY JONES / Fayetteville

Northwest Arkansas Times, Opinion, Page 5 on 03/23/2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

House Approves Historic Health Care Reform

In an historic vote more than 60 years in the making, the House of Representatives late last night voted to approve(219-211) what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls a "momentous step toward comprehensive health care.”

The bill survived a $100 million lie-and-distortion campaign by Big Insurance to kill it-the same kind of tactics these groups have aimed at health care proposals forsix decades. Trumka says the bill is not “a baby step or half measure,” but a solid step forward to set our country on a path to health care that actually works for working families.

After personally calling dozens of House members on Friday, Trumka spent the weekend meeting with House members to firm up votes in favor of the bill. On Capitol Hill today, Trumka joined two workers-among the millions in this nation for whom passage of this health care bill means the difference between food and health care.

One of the workers, Liz Stender, lost her job in August while four months pregnant, and described how COBRA, which extends her health coverage, will run out next month. Now working part-time, Stender, a member of the AFL-CIO community affiliate Working America,won’t be able to afford health coverage for herself or her small daughter–and today’s passage of the health care bill literally means the difference between groceries and insurance. Judy Cato, a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans, who also joined Trumka, described how the legislation will allow her and other Medicare beneficiaries to get mammograms and other preventive screenings without co-payments.

In a letter Friday to House members urging passage of the bill, Trumka wrote “the bill is not perfect.”

But we are realistic enough to know it’s time for the deliberations to stop and for progress to begin. And we are idealistic enough to believe this is an opportunity to change history we can’t afford to miss.

Union Members Made the Difference

Throughout the health care battle, mobilized union members provided a strong and visible counterpoint to the insurance giants’ television and lobbying blitz. Union members made more than 4 million phone calls and sent more than 1 million emails to lawmakers.Leaders flew to Washington and visited members of Congress in their districts, making more than 10,000 contacts.

In addition, canvassers from Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate talked to more than 210,000 people abouthealth care at their front doors, generating 30,000 health care petition signatures,31,000 phone callsto Congress, 40,000 e-mails and75,000 hand-written letters urginglawmakersto passhealth care reform.

The contacts not only helped win approval of health care reform, they improved the bill and ensured that its financing would be fairer.Pressure from working families and visits and phone callsfrom union leaders to lawmkers eliminated 85 percent of a tax on health care benefits that would have slammed working families–union and non-union. That same activism helpedstrengthen the bill’s employer responsibility provisions by requiring employers to shoulder more of their fair share.

As originally proposed last year, the benefits tax would have slammed working families–union and non-union. Butpressure from working families and visits and phone callsfrom union leaders to lawmkers only eliminated 85 percent of the tax bite. That same activism helpedstrengthen the bill’s employer responsibility provisions by requiring employers to more of their fair share.

In the days leading up to the vote, union members (see video) and leaders were on Capitol Hill and at representatives’ home district offices urging wavering lawmakers to back the health care bill.

In Fresno Calif., Friday, union members rallied outside Rep. Jim Costa’s (D) office. Later, Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, flew to Washington to meet with fence-sitting California lawmakers. Yesterday Costa announced he would vote in favor of health care reform.

AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney was on the phones, too. Several Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about the bill’s language on abortions. Sweeney, a devout Catholic, talked to the representatives about the Catholic Church’s long-history of fighting for social and economic justice and how providing health care for32 million additional people follows that teaching.

While union members attempted to persuade the undecided, they also warned lawmakers they would beheld accountable if they turned their backs on working families and voted against health care reform.

In Pennsylvania Friday, Rep. Jason Altmire (D), who courted and won union support for his election, announced he was voting against the bill. Yesterday, several dozen United Steelworkers (USW) members and retirees staged a sit-in at his Aliquippa office. Said Rick Galiano, president of USW Local 9305 in Beaver Falls, Pa.:

We busted our humps working for Jason Altmire and many other politicians who time and time again promise us that they’ll work for us and working families across America. We are tired of the broken promises. We helped Congressman Altmire win this seat because he vowed he would vote for health insurance reform. We’re here today urging him to keep that promise.

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y), who narrowly won his last election-union family votes put him over the top-announced Thursday he would vote against the bill. On Friday, New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes and 20 other New York labor leaders sent Arcuri a letter saying his health care vote will have consequences.

Our members look for elected officials who have the courage to stand up to lies, distortions and political scare tactics. Your vote this Sunday will tell them what kind of elected official you are. Please do not disappoint them or us.

Yesterday, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes and more than two dozen Bay State union leaders urged Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) to reconsider his announced “No” vote. They wrote:

If Congress passes this legislation, together, we can continue to strengthen consumer protections, increase market competition, and ensure that insurance companies no longer have a stranglehold on consumers. If Congress doesn’t pass the bill, none of this is possible. All we are left with is the status quo.

Congressman, we will not be able to explain to the working women and men of our union why you voted against their interests.

What Does the Bill Do?

In a video message to working families, Trumka says that at its core, the bill

means long-term health security–and that’s the most important thing for your future, and your children and their children.

Among other benefits, the health care reform bill

bans coverage denials or higher rates due to pre-existing conditions and outlaws the practice of insurers dropping coverage when someone files a claim or is diagnosed with a condition requiring expensive treatment. It covers an additional 32 million people, or 95 percent of the population.

The bill ends gender discrimination in setting insurance rates and establishes a procedure to review insurance premium increases and take action against unreasonable rate hikes.

It also makes improvements in the original Senate-passed version, such as not placing the cost of the bill on the backs of working families.

  • It eliminates 85 percent of the tax on benefits that would have penalized working families.
  • It substitutes in its place a progressive tax on the wealthy that requires Medicare contributions be paid on unearned income for the first time.
  • It increases subsidies to purchase health insurance for low and moderate income people.

On the benefits tax, Trumka says:

We continue to think the excise tax is the wrong way to contain costs, but the changes included in the corrections bill cut the tax back deeply, so that it now eliminates 85 percent of the tax for all working families–both non-union and union–whose health benefits cost more due to factors beyond their control.

The bill also cuts brand-name drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries by 50 percent in 2011, and closes the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” completely by 2020. Stella Johnson, a retired school teacher and member of the Alliance for Retired Americans is one of 3 million seniors who each year falls in the donut hole.

At a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, Johnson said her prescriptions become even more costly when she is forced to pay full price as result of the donut hole.

It is very hard for me to make ends meet. I have to choose between taking the medicines I need and paying my monthly bills. Because my prescriptions cost so much, I fall behind on some of my bills. When I get hit with late penalties, things get even worse.

The health care bill will help seniors like me who struggle every day to afford the prescriptions they must have.

Trumka says the bill is a “solid foundation” and the union movement will “continue our efforts to improve our health care system.”

We need to do more to bring employers into the system. We need to do more to bring down costs-and one of the best ways to do that is with a public health insurance option. And it will be critical to build on the reforms in the bill designed to change the way health care is delivered, so that we reward value rather than volume.

The Senate now must vote again, but this time Republican obstructionists will not be able to filibuster the bill because it will only require a simply majority to pass.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Important Meeting this Thursday, March 25th

The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council will meet at 5:30 on Thursday, March 25th. First on our agenda is Joe Holland, a Senior Staff Representative with the National AFL-CIO for almost 14 years, assigned to coordinate our Northwest Arkansas political activity in the U.S. Senate primary campaign. I think you’ll like Joe, who is a 3rd generation coal miner from Kentucky and proud UMWA Member for over 37 years.

We will also be reviewing the candidate questionnaires and recommending endorsements by the Arkansas AFL-CIO for two Arkansas Supreme Court Justices and for the Arkansas House of Representatives, District 92, Democratic Primary between Greg Leding and Bill Ramsey. In addition, we will review and make endorsements in two non-partisan Circuit Judge contests in the 4th District (Washington and Madison), the Republican Primary races for County Judge and Sheriff in Benton County, and the Democratic Primary race for Madison County Judge.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's Time for Sensible Immigration Reform

Yesterday President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to drive an immigration reform bill forward this spring. We echo the urgency in the President’s message.

The AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform and united around the framework for reform that we put forth a year ago. Our framework protects American workers, secures our borders, ensures that employers hire authorized workers and creates a path to citizenship for those who came to our country illegally. It also provides a rational and reasonable approach to future flow, which ties the number of new foreign workers coming into the US labor market to established labor shortages. Under our approach, the numbers—which would be established through an independent commission—would be much higher during robust economic times than they would be in times like today. The advocacy community, including the Reform Immigration for America campaign of which we are a member, has adopted this same approach.

American workers are facing a prolonged jobs crisis and nearly 10% unemployment, with no sign of recovery in sight. If immigration reform is to have any chance of passing this year, the Chamber of Commerce is going to have to abandon its insistence on the creation of a new temporary worker program and embrace a solution based on real employment needs. A new temporary worker program in today’s economy would be political suicide, and the Chamber must know that.

We need immigration reform now. The more we delay, the worse the problem becomes. It’s time to move forward and stop playing politics with a problem we should have fixed a long time ago.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Immigration Reform
March 12, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Please Take this Online Survey on NWA's Economic Future

The Northwest Arkansas Council, a business group funded by major corporate players, is in the process of developing a Strategic Regional Economic Development Plan for the four-county region of Northwest Arkansas. They have hired a consultant from out of state to interview "business leaders" about what they see as problems and what they want. They are not asking local unions or working families to participate in their focus groups or interviews about their concerns, their opinions about the region, or hopes for a better future.

This corporate group will then get the regional planning commission to adopt their economic priorities and control future economic development decisions in Northwest Arkansas. The only way to have any say at all is to participate in an online survey, and tell them what working families think about Northwest Arkansas and its economic future. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey, then pass it along and ASK YOUR MEMBERS TO ANSWER THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.

Click on this link:

Let working families be heard.

Arkansas AFL-CIO Executive Board Recommended Endorsements

After a lengthy discussion about Senator Lincoln's position on Healthcare, the appointment of Greg Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, the Employee Free Choice Act, and trade issues, the Arkansas AFL-CIO Executive Board voted to support Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter for his candidacy in the Democratic Primary for the United States Senate. We believe that Bill Halter will listen to Arkansas' working families and support their issues in Washington as he has done as Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas.

Also, a recommendation for endorsement has been made for Senator Joyce Elliott for United States Congress District 2. The board believes she will be a candidate that will listen to working families in Arkansas and their needs as she has in the State House and State Senate.

For more information or if you have any questions please contact our office at 501-375-9101 or


Alan B. Hughes, President