Razorbash a Success for Union

Hundreds of students took the lunch break on the third day of classes to walk through Razorbash 2021, and Local 965 with officials of the Arkansas Education Association were on hand to greet them.

The University of Arkansas hosts Razorbash early every fall on the commons between the Arkansas Union and Mullins Library. It is an “information fair for students to engage with local businesses, national chains and non-profit organizations throughout Northwest Arkansas,” according to the Office of Student Activities.

Running the booth for Local 965 were President Bret Schulte, Secretary Ben Pollock and at-large board members Patrick Williams, Chad Kieffer and Ryan Gliszinski. Joining in from Little Rock were Carol Fleming, AEA president, and Karla Carpenter, AEA manager of organizing & field services, and from Springdale was Renee Johnson, AEA UniServ director.

Besides explaining the advantages of AEA membership to UA faculty and staff members who dropped by, undergraduate education majors and graduate students interested in careers that may include K-12 education learned about the benefits of the Student AEA.

Our table likely gathered more interest than previous years because of more colorful display banners from both the 965 and AEA and even the benefit of shade from the canopy bought that hot August morning by Karla.

Table reserved sign at the 2021 Razorbash
The table-reserved sign at the 2021 Razorbash

A Choice to Work Remotely

Resolution on Allowing University of Arkansas Employees the Choice to Work Remotely

Whereas, the Covid-19 global pandemic has killed at least 6,704 Arkansans, including 400 in Washington County, since the late winter of 2020 (Tracking Coronavirus in Arkansas: Latest Map and Case Count,” The New York Times, link updates periodically);

Whereas, Covid-19 has infected at least 436,000 Arkansans, including more than 38,000 in Washington County (ibid.);

Whereas, in the week starting August 15, more Arkansans were in the hospital than at any time since the pandemic began (ibid.);

Whereas, the Delta Variant of Covid-19 that is the dominant variant in Arkansas releases 1260 times more viral particles than earlier variants (Northwest Arkansas Health Officials Weigh In on Breakthrough Cases of Covid-19,” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 15, 2021);

Whereas, “breakthrough infections” among fully vaccinated account for 15% of the cases in Arkansas (ibid.); 

Whereas, on July 30, 2021, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared “a statewide state of disaster emergency related to public health, resulting from the catastrophic statewide impact of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 on the healthcare system of Arkansas” (Executive Order to Declare a Statewide Public Health Emergency for the Purpose of Meeting and Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19, 21-14, July 29, 2021, Office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson);

Whereas, the University of Arkansas is prohibited from requiring students and employees to receive one of the three readily available and safe Covid-19 vaccines, even though vaccines have been required in the past (most recently MMR in the winter of 2019-2020) and Governor Hutchinson has declared that widespread vaccination is the best way to mitigate the effects of Covid-19; 

Whereas, University of Arkansas faculty and staff have demonstrated the ability to advance the university’s primary missions of research and education while working remotely;

Whereas, certain employees of the University of Arkansas fall into high-risk mortality categories if they become infected with Covid-19;

Whereas, certain employees are the primary caregivers of children under 12, who are ineligible for vaccinations, and other high-risk groups;

Whereas, the University of Arkansas’s efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 on campus have been inadequate: 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that, since the University of Arkansas has not taken common-sense steps to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 on campus and protect its employees, UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 supports employee choice in continuing to work remotely — be they faculty or staff — out of overwhelming concern for their personal well-being;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the university require mandatory Covid-19 testing for students who take part in labs, studios or seminars that last longer 120 minutes per session. 

This resolution was approved at the Aug. 19, 2021, general membership meeting of UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965. Members present in a quorum voted unanimously for the topic points, then compiled by Local officers.

Local Urges Campus to Lead on Covid Protocols

JULY 26, 2021 — UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 is calling for the campus community to practice and even enforce the twin responsibilities of vaccination and masking to fight the coronavirus pandemic through the 2021-22 academic term. As the Arkansas Legislature and governor have hobbled the ability of University of Arkansas administration and employees to advance both of these scientifically verified protocols, it calls on the leadership and individuals on the Fayetteville flagship campus to do what it takes to save lives.

The board of Local 965 recommends three collective actions to protect its members and indeed all UA colleagues, as well as the students whom they serve. These augment its stance on campus pandemic policies in June 2020.

The union thus actively opposes both the newly passed Arkansas Act 1002 preventing state and local governments including public education entities from mandating the wearing of masks and the newly passed Arkansas Act 1030 prohibiting “vaccine passports” being required by a state or local government entity or official for “travel, education or services.” Both laws unreasonably increase health risks to UA employees and students.

Attorney Thomas A. Mars of Rogers has announced plans to sue the state of Arkansas over Act 1002 on requiring masking. The plaintiffs would be all K-12 parents whose children attend public schools in Arkansas.

The 965 board recommends that the UA administration join the lawsuit either as co-plaintiff or through an amicus curiae, friend of the court brief, on behalf of its workers and students.

Second, the Local 965 board recommends Pat Walker Health Center and related UA entities more aggressively promote obtaining Covid vaccinations and using masks appropriately among students and employees. They can start with ignoring the duplicative element of Act 1002, that all advisories for the prevention of Covid-19 “shall provide notice that the recommendation is not mandatory.” The redundancy taints whatever neutrality is in the law in favor of keeping more people vulnerable.

Third, neither Act 1002 nor 1030 includes provisions for felony or misdemeanor criminal or civil penalties for entities or employees in positions of responsibility to insist on face coverings or vaccine documentation of anyone within their realms. These laws, however, may refer implicitly to state prosecutorial standards. The union board supports any member and endorses any other UA worker who chooses to engage in Civil Resistance by mandating those in their realm wear face coverings properly in indoor spaces or crowded outdoor spaces on campus.

This instance of Civil Resistance would be where a staff or faculty member who uses an office to feel no reluctance to post signage or otherwise state that the unmasked are not welcome there. A faculty member when presiding in a classroom should have the liberty to bar the unmasked. Staff members who are not clerical, for example employed in Facilities Management, should be provided plenty of personal protective equipment and not only taught but encouraged to use PPE.

The Local board notes the protocols set up by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with “Your Guide to Masks” and “Vaccines for Covid-19,” the Arkansas Department of Health, and the university’s Pat Walker Health Center. Due to two factors, these policies and best practices do not go far enough to ensure the welfare of as many workers and students as possible.

The first is that none of these protocols quite addresses the increasing danger of Covid mutations, currently the Delta. Local 965 therefore worries about the next coronavirus-2019 variants to saturate the United States, starting presumably with the Epsilon

The other issue is the inherent and unnecessary risk of trusting those who claim to have been vaccinated, not to mention those who do not say or proclaim refusal to be vaccinated. The precaution here is not the vax record card or even a tattoo but rather to assume that any stranger, relative, acquaintance or friend can be a Covid carrier. Indeed, the Delta variant shows that fully vaccinated people can be infected with few or no symptoms yet be contagious. The risk of fatality or long Covid is too heavy a burden to place on the Office of Student Standards and Conduct. Collective action is the recourse.

We mustn’t neglect mentioning the third responsibility: Wash your hands. Often.

For immediate release
For information contact
From Arkansas965.org

Illustration of a hygienic face mask

55.5 Years of Service

Local 965 of the University of Arkansas began in the early 1960s, and we were formally chartered Jan. 1, 1966. Now, June 30, 2021, is a good time to honor that longevity.

We have outlasted a baker’s dozen of chancellors and presidents in our 55.5 years:

  • June 22, 2021 – current — William Reid Kincaid, acting chancellor
  • 2011 – current — Donald Bobbitt/p
  • 2016-2021 — Joseph E. Steinmetz/c
  • 2008- 2015 — G. David Gearhart/c
  • 1997- 2008 —John A. White/c
  • 1990-2011 — B. Alan Sugg/p
  • 1986-97 — Daniel Ferritor/c
  • 1984-90 — Ray Thornton/p
  • 1984-85 — Willard Gatewood/c
  • 1982-83 — B.A. Nugent/c
  • 1980-84 — James E. Martin/p
  • 1974-80 — Charles E. Bishop/p
  • 1960-74 — David Wiley Mullins/p

(President since the early 1980s refers to leading the overall U of A System. Chancellorship of the Fayetteville campus began with Nugent in 1982. The campus chief executive before that was president, not counting Frank Broyles, hired as football coach in 1958.)

Nationally and over a number of years, union membership has been declining for a complexity of reasons. In the last years of the last century, notably, Local 965 led successful opposition to a UA administration move to turn some of the work of the buildings and grounds staff over to private contractors. Our membership surged. Then in early 2017, Local 965 began a resurgence. In January 2020, it joined the National Education Association, the union whose higher education division most closely aligns with the needs and interests of our membership. Our fiscal year ending June 30 has been our most successful in collective action.

Graphic showing 55.5 years the Local has represented University of Arkansas employees, having been chartered on Jan. 1, 1966

Parading for Pride, 2021

UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 was represented in both parades in their city honoring the LGBTQ community, during the June 2021 Pride Month. The Northwest Arkansas events were organized by NWA Equality.

The first was Thursday evening, June 24, the first Trans March in Arkansas. The parade went from the Walton Arts Center to the Town Center. The march and rally were intended to increase visibility and empower transgender, nonbinary, gender variant and gender nonconforming people to come out, as well as protest the state Legislature’s passage of transgender laws, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Local 965 at-large board members Ryan Gliszinski and Chad Kieffer participate in the Fayetteville Trans March on June 24.
Local 965 at-large board members Ryan Gliszinski (left) and Chad Kieffer walked for the union to support transgender rights, the community and their supporters in the state’s first Trans March on June 24, 2021.

At noon Saturday, June 26, a few hundred marchers organized in several dozen groups took part in the 17th annual NWA Pride Parade began near St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, moving west on Dickson Street to the edge of the University of Arkansas campus. Thousands watched and applauded from the sidewalks of Dickson, the city’s main entertainment district.

Lining up for the Local were President Bret Schulte, Vice President Mike Pierce, Secretary Ben Pollock, at-large board member Ted Swedenburg and member Tricia Starks. Other union members marched with other groups in the parade, including at-large board members Ryan Gliszinski and Chad Kieffer.

We would be remiss if we failed to note the obvious: The Covid pandemic is ending but not over and Saturday’s event is not a good look. We were heartened and grateful that parade organizers and city management arranged the participant groups carefully using health protocols. The current safety guidelines for large gatherings were honored by those participating IN the parade — generally standing at least 6 feet apart and so forth.

That the thousands of onlookers mobbed up shoulder to shoulder like old times with no face coverings and so forth is a worry. We only can hope that the sorts of people who support the principles the parade espoused know the safety and efficacy of the new coronavirus vaccines and got their shots weeks ago.