Saturday, February 27, 2010

NWA Green Jobs Training Center!

“The Fayetteville Green Jobs Training Center of Excellence will soon be a reality. Thanks to everyone involved in helping make this happen. I had lots of help. Joining me yesterday were Alderman Sarah Lewis, Representative Lindsley Smith, UA Engineering Professor Panneer Selvam, Stephen Smith from the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council, and Steve Clark from the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, all of whom have been working to make this happen. Chief of Staff Don Marr, Senator Sue Madison, and Peggy Gabriel from the UA College of Engineering, as well as other members of my staff, have been involved but were unable to attend the announcement. The important thing is that we are taking steps to put people to work in green jobs that will save energy and money for local residents and businesses.” -- Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, AFSCME Local 965

Northwest Arkansas Lands Green Jobs Training Center

By Skip Descant

Saturday, February 27, 2010

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS TIMES— The next crop of energy auditors or energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning specialists could come from Northwest Arkansas.

Gov. Mike Beebe announced the launch of two green-job training centers in the state Friday. One will be based at NorthWest Arkansas Community College and the other at Pulaski Technical College’s North Little Rock campus. The two programs will be funded for the next three years with more than $2.5 million in federal grants.

No official start date has been set, but officials say they’d like to get the program off the ground in June.

In Northwest Arkansas, the job-training program will be based in Bentonville with some coursework in Fayetteville, said Becky Paneitz, NWACC president of the community college, speaking after a news conference in North Little Rock where Beebe made the announcement.

NWACC’s corporate learning center in north Fayetteville at the corner of Joyce Boulevard and College Avenue will house the classroom portion of the training program, while “lab-type work” will happen at the school’s main campus in Bentonville, said Beau Walker, interim director of public relations at NWACC.

“This is good not just for the city of Fayetteville, but the whole region,” said Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan. Jordan traveled to Little Rock to attend Beebe’s news conference.

“I really believe that between the two schools, we’ll be able to open a new job market for the whole state,” Jordan said.

Establishing a green job training center in Northwest Arkansas was a prominent plank in Jordan’s bid for Fayetteville mayor in 2008.

“Today teaches you that if you stay after something long enough and stay after it, it will come to pass,” Jordan said.

He was joined at Friday’s announcement by Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce; Sarah Lewis, Fayetteville City Council member; and state Rep. Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville), who is also employed as Jordan’s communications director for Fayetteville. A host of officials from NWACC also attended the event.

Rick Mayes, director of building sciences at NWACC, will serve as director for the program. A program coordinator will begin work in mid-March, Walker said. The program coordinator will work to certify the new program with nationally known organizations such as the Building Performance Institute, the Residential Energy Services Network, Air-Conditioning Contractors of America and the Florida Solar Institute.

“This project is really geared toward weatherization for the state of Arkansas,” Paneitz said.

“One of the many goals for the Center of Excellence is to help bring lacking standardization to the state of Arkansas by training an educated, qualified workforce,” Walker added.

“It’s extremely important to the economic development for this region,” Paneitz added.

The coursework is being designed so that most professional certification training will take several days to several weeks depending on how the classes are scheduled. It’s not yet clear how much the classes will cost.

The state has said it wants to offer a minimum of 60 courses in the next three years, training at least 600 workers. The U.S. Department of Energy issued a $7.4 million grant to pay for the program. NWACC was awarded $1,356,088 and Pulaski Tech was awarded $1,231,202. The grants, which are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be administered by the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Roughly $4.9 million will be used by NWACC and Pulaski Tech to develop mobile training units that will visit the state’s other community colleges to provide the training.

Beebe said the money will allow the schools to “be able to train folks for the jobs of tomorrow, not the jobs of yesterday, the jobs of tomorrow.”

“(The program) marries environmental protection with economic development and it creates jobs for folks that will be long-lasting for the foreseeable future,” the governor said.

Organizers say they hope to identify more funding sources for future classes.

“The Centers of Excellence are charged with making this initiative sustainable and we anticipate other correlating funding will be designated to implement additional projects related to alternative energy such as wind, solar and geothermal,” Mayes said .

Initially, the training will include licensing and certifying professionals already working in these job sectors, say NWACC officials.

Local job watchers are praising the announcement.

“One of the great things about NWACC’s new offerings is that they will be shaped by the needs of our community,” said Keaton Smith, who leads Jordan’s Fayetteville Forward green economy group. “Programming will be fluid to meet consumer demand for new innovations and trends in the marketplace.”

“It is another key step in building a science, business and technology cluster,” said Steve Rust, president and CEO of Green Valley Development in Fayetteville. Green Valley Development is an economic development group charged with attracting and growing companies in the green-tech job sector.

More training in the green building sector will assist a growing move to build more energy-efficient buildings, said Karen Stewart, an environmental consultant with EcoPotential, a Springdale firm that offers training and consulting for environmental building certification in areas like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also know as LEED.

“They go hand in hand,” Stewart said, pointing to a November 2009 report by the Green Building Council that shows green building will support 7.9 million jobs nationwide and pump $554 billion into the American economy — including $396 billion in wages — over the next four years.

“So this is really what needs to happen in Northwest Arkansas,” Stewart said.

Labor leaders say the training centers will be a boost for jobs.

“Even in Northwest Arkansas we’re running 7 percent unemployment, and this is the first step to get this set up to get the certification people need and I think, put more people in the workforce,” said Stephen Smith, president of the Arkansas Labor Council, which worked closely with officials in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas, NWACC and others to secure the training center.

“We can then move on for more cooperation for more advanced job training in areas like solar and wind energy,” Smith added.

The Arkansas News Bureau’s Jeremy Peppas contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Working people across America welcome the news that the Senate has passed a jobs bill today as a first step to put Main Street back to work. Senator Reid has said more actions need to be—and will be—taken. We couldn’t agree more. We need much bigger and bolder actions to ensure that we create 10 million jobs and Wall Street pays the bill to fix the financial disaster.

In a turn of head spinning hypocrisy, some Republican Senators had the audacity to vote for a bill they voted less than 48 hours ago not to allow even to be considered. If these Senators want to be seen as part of the solution, they must stop these procedural hijinks that are slowing down the Senate and hurting the recovery. Working families need jobs and are demanding real results from Washington.

Moving forward, we will be taking the fight for jobs to communities nationwide, focusing on the solutions we have outlined in our 5 point jobs plan: Extending unemployment insurance benefits, food assistance and health benefits; rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in green jobs; increasing aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services; increasing funding for neglected communities to match people who want to work with jobs that need to be done; and using TARP money to get credit flowing to small businesses.

February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Momentous Step Taken to End Wage Theft

Miami-Dade County Passes Historic Measure Poised to Inspire Other Communities

Miami-Dade County yesterday overwhelmingly passed the first county-wide ordinance in the country to combat wage theft, making it easier for workers to bring legal action against employers who fail to pay or underpay them.

“This is momentous,” said Jeanette Smith, Executive Director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice (SFIWJ). “The passing of this legislation will make a difference for every worker in Miami-Dade County and, hopefully, will encourage groups all over the country to establish similar mechanisms for workers in their communities.”

Thursday’s vote was the culmination of over a year of work by SFIWJ and the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force. Similar initiatives are being considered by states and cities across the country, including Los Angeles and New Orleans.

“This victory is a spark that will help ignite a wave across the country,” said Ted Smukler, Public Policy Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “It is a shining example of many initiatives underway at the state and local levels to combat this crime, and demonstrates that there’s widespread political will when people are made aware of the extent of the crisis.”

“It’s a historic day for all Miami-Dade workers, employers who play by the rules, taxpayers, our economy, and our community, setting the precedent for the nation to follow,” said Fred Frost, President of the South Florida AFL-CIO and a member of the wage theft task force.

“This legislation will provide justice for exploited workers using a streamlined hearing examiner process, at very little cost to our county,” said Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners member Natacha Seijas, the measure’s principal sponsor. “I am very pleased that every colleague present today voted in favor of this Ordinance.”

“Recovering back wages owed workers will put more money in the local economy, send a message to crooked employers and create a more level playing field for honest employers,” read a Miami Herald editorial endorsing the ordinance, which the newspaper argued would “fill a vacuum” and “be a future deterrent.” “Employers would have to pay employment and workers' compensation taxes they're now avoiding, a burden for honest employers.”

“And now, the real work begins,” said SFIWJ’s Smith. “Tomorrow, we go out to the streets and we talk to workers. We visit congregations. We educate. We involve our community in a county-wide effort to implement this historic piece of legislation. The message is clear -- thou shalt not steal. Not in our community. Not anywhere.”

“When raising the minimum wage was blocked at the federal level for 12 years,” said IWJ’s Smukler, “people took action at the state level and were successful in winning state campaigns that raised the minimum wage above the federal level in a majority of states in the country, creating the momentum that eventually led to raising the national minimum wage in 2007. We believe that victories like today’s in Miami-Dade County can similarly inspire a wave of policy changes and legislation at the local, state, and ultimately federal levels, with the goal of ending wage theft in America.”


Saturday, February 13, 2010

No Deal on NLRB Appointments

President Obama must act immediately to restore the ability of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to protect the rights of American workers by giving recess appointments to two nominees who are being blocked by Blanche Lincoln and other Senate Republican obstructionists, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today.

Writing on Huffington Post, Trumka put it this way:

The NLRB’s job is to protect workers’ rights—but for more than two years it has been functioning with only two members instead of the five it should have. Working people need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act—not one hobbled by vacancies.

Click here to read the entire post.

Saying “enough is enough,” Trumka is urging working people to take action now and call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1111or 202-456-1414 and demand that President Obama use his executive power to appoint Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the NLRB during the Presidents Day recess.

In a deal between the White House and the Senate minority, the Senate yesterday confirmed 27 non-controversial Obama appointees. But the NLRB nominees—Becker and Pearce—both highly qualified, well-respected labor lawyers who were nominated in July, were left out of the deal. The Republicans filibustered the Becker nomination, although he received a majority vote. The White House apparently has agreed not to make Presidents Day recess appointments—a process that allows the president to temporarily appoint his own nominee while Congress is out of session.

Trumka calls that decision:

A big win for the Republicans. A big win for corporations that want to file down the teeth of the NLRB. A big loss for working people.

He adds that progressives must act quickly to build support for a fully functional NLRB.

Progressives should take every opportunity to let their congressional representatives and the White House know that protection of workers’ rights is one of the first and most important changes working people expected to see when they voted in 2008. It’s been 13 months since the inauguration—it’s time.


Please encourage eligible union members and representatives of working families to apply for these appointments.

Board, Committee & Commission Vacancies



One Term Ending 03/31/14


One Unexpired CPA Term Ending 12/31/12


Two Terms Ending 03/13/15


One Unexpired Term Ending 12/31/12


One Term Ending 03/31/16

Each commissioner must be a resident of the city for at least three years immediately preceding their appointment. A.C.A. Section 14-51-202.


Three Terms Ending 03/31/15

Two Alternate Terms Ending 03/31/11


One Term Ending 04/01/15


Three Terms Ending 03/31/13

One Unexpired Term Ending 03/31/11

One Unexpired Term Ending 03/31/12


One Unexpired Term Ending 06/30/11


Utility Representative Term Ending 12/31/11

One Service Organization Unexpired Term Ending 12/31/11

One Land Development Unexpired Term Ending 12/31/11


All applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on February 26, 2010.

All volunteers must reside within the Fayetteville City Limits and be a Fayetteville Registered Voter. All applicants must submit a new application for each board, committee, or commission. Applications may be emailed to or mailed to the City Clerk’s office at 113 West Mountain, Fayetteville, AR 72701. Please contact the City Clerk’s office at 575-8323 for more information.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New report shows unions substantially raise wages and benefits for workers

A new report released last week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines unionization rates, the size and composition of the unionized workforce and the wages and benefits for union workers in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"The union presence varies across states, but unions substantially raise wages and benefits for workers in every state," said John Schmitt, the author of the report.

The study, "The Unions of the States," finds that in the typical state, unionization is associated with a 15 percent increase in hourly wages. Unionization is also associated with a 19-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-provided health insurance and a 24-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-sponsored retirement plans.