Reclaim Arkansas Flag for State

Four blue stars on Arkansas flag defined
The symbolism of the four blue stars on Arkansas flag is explained.

It’s been embarrassing.

The state flag of Arkansas includes an explicit reference to the Confederacy. The overall design can be seen as having similarities to the Confederate battle flag of the American Civil War. The early 20th-century legislation establishing the banner sets four large blue stars within the diamond to refer to the nations to which Arkansas has belonged: a triangle indicating Spain, France and the United States, and separately and uppermost the Confederacy.

During the 2019 General Session of the Arkansas Legislature, a Democratic Little Rock representative proposed dropping the Confederate reference and making a star symbolize the indigenous tribes that dwelled here before the European conquests. It was twice defeated in committee.

Why take the state’s word on such a matter? Why not as citizens proclaim the four blue stars be both inclusive and accurate? This detail might not make a sanctioned state history textbook, but a nongovernmental group could promote an alternative symbolism in defiance of accepted and prejudicial dogma.

Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees approved such a resolution March 28, 2019. The rationale is that nearly all Local members are directly and indirectly workers in education. A modern flag is a teaching device, presenting facts and concepts. Educators have a vested interest in symbols that we use to impart knowledge and values.

Star Crossed: A Symbolic Act of Civil Disobedience

That Local 965, AFSCME, promote a fair and historically accurate representation of the official Arkansas State Flag.

Since 1923, the Arkansas Legislature has held that its fourth, separate blue star signifies the state’s membership in the Confederacy, the other three blue stars in place from 1913-1923 represent the nations having held the territory from which Arkansas was carved — Spain, France and since 1803 the United States. (Reference)

The four-year Confederacy being considered a sovereign state comparable to the Republic, not to mention European nations, pales in comparison to how indigenous tribes dwelled in the region for centuries before, primarily the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo. (Reference)

In 2019, the honorable state Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, lost several legislative moves to repurpose that fourth star to represent Native Americans. The top star would mean the U.S. and the lower three the previous sovereignties. We endorse that representation.

We workers, standing for the people of Arkansas, proclaim that our state Legislature has limited authority to embarrass us. If anyone asks, and even if they don’t, we will loudly and proudly state our heritage from the dawn of recorded history as represented in the central four blue stars within the diamond of the banner. If state authorities beg to differ, well tough.

— Resolution text drafted by Ben Pollock, the 965’s recording secretary and communication director

Defend Minimum Wage Increase

Dear members and supporters of the Mighty 965,

Flag of ArkansasAs many of you know, Arkansas state Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, and his House counterpart Rep. Frances Cavenaugh, R-Walnut Ridge, have submitted a bill that would largely dismantle the minimum-wage increase just passed by more than two-thirds of Arkansas voters.

Greg Leding says legislators in Little Rocks are hearing a lot of support for Ballinger’s bill from business interests but nothing but crickets from people who voted for the minimum wage act. We need to send emails or make phone calls — and encourage others to do the same. If there was ever a day to call for social justice, MLK Day is it.

Ballinger’s Senate Bill 115 erases the minimum-wage increase that two-thirds of Arkansans voted for in the November 2018 General Election for anyone under 18, as well as anyone employed at a school, preschool, college, nonprofit or business with fewer than 50 employees. Attorney David Couch, who wrote the minimum wage ballot initiative, estimates that the bill could steal increases in pay for as many as half of the state’s minimum-wage employees.

Please contact your representatives, Democratic or Republican, as well as Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren to let them you know support the minimum wage increase and oppose Republican efforts to undermine Arkansas voters and keep Arkansas workers in poverty.

Here’s contact information for Republicans and local Democrats who are defending the minimum wage. The Dems need to be able to say they’re hearing from supporters.

— Bret Schulte, president, AFSCME Local 965


Parking Victory Nears

U of A parking map December 2018The Local 965 is pleased to announce that University of Arkansas Transit and Parking will now consider a salary-based fee structure to park on campus, a mark of progress for the UA Living Wage campaign. If approved, the innovative salary-based fee structure would charge each faculty and staff member a small percentage of his/her salary to park on campus.

Charging a percentage of a salary will make parking more affordable for workers at the university, where the median annual salary for classified employees is just $31,000. Nearly 400 full-time employees make less than $25,000 per year — data gathered by a state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request issued by the Local 965.

Since April, the Local has waged a Living Wage campaign to persuade the university to increase wages for its lowest level workers. We believe that making parking more affordable for employees would be an important demonstration of the university’s commitment to fairness, innovation and workers rights.

The consideration of a new parking structure comes after a presentation and proposal in November to the Transit and Parking Committee by Local 965 President Bret Schulte after consultation with the Local 965.

A handful of universities have already deployed similar fee structures. The University of Illinois charges employees 0.7 percent of salaries for parking, while Rutgers charges 0.001 percent. LeHigh and Towson have adopted tier systems for multiple levels of salaries. The University of Vermont has adopted a hybrid zone and salary system that charges employees a higher percentage of their salaries to park in premium zones.

The Local encourages members, faculty and staff to send their expressions of support for a salary-based fee structure to U of A Transit and Parking director Gary Smith,

The January meeting of Local 965 will include discussion of the parking issue. That’s at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at Columbus House Brewery & Tap Room, 701 W. North St. in Fayetteville.

Arkansas AFL-CIO Endorses Candidates, Issues

Logo of AFL-CIOThe Arkansas federation of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has announced after research and deliberation its endorsements in races of the November 2018 general election.

As one of the state AFL-CIO’s 190-plus local unions, labor councils and subordinate bodies, AFSCME Local 965 concurs. Arkansas workers should consider these recommendations as well as conduct their own study of candidates and policies before heading to the polls. We want all to vote!

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6, early voting begins Oct. 22 and registration for new voters ends Oct. 9. Arkansas citizens should review those details.

As Arkansas 965 covers nine northwest and north central counties plus some employees of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, all the recommended candidates and issues are listed.

U.S. House

  • Chintan Desai — 1st Congressional District
  • Clarke Tucker — 2nd Congressional District
  • Joshua Mahony — 3rd Congressional District
  • Hayden Shamel — 4th Congressional District

State Constitutional Offices

  • Jared Henderson — Governor
  • Anthony Bland — Lieutenant Governor
  • Mike Lee — Attorney General
  • Susan Inman — Secretary of State

Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendments

  • Issue 1 — Tort Law — AFL-CIO position — Oppose
  • Issue 2: Voter ID — No Position

Citizen Initiated Constitutional Amendments

  1. State Legislative Term Limits — AFL-CIO position — Oppose
  2. Casino Initiative Amendment — Support

Citizen Initiated State Statute

  • Minimum Wage Increase Initiative — AFL-CIO position — Support

State Senate

  • Jon Comstock — 3rd Senate District
  • Rep. Greg Leding — 4th District
  • Jim Wallace — 5th District
  • Sen. Bill Sample — 14th District
  • Melissa Fults — 33rd District
  • Maureen Skinner — 35th District

State House

  • Rep. Vivian Flowers — 17th House District
  • Alan Hughes — 26th District
  • Dustin Parsons — 28th District
  • Rep. Fred Allen — 30th District
  • Randy Haun — 31st District
  • Jess Mallett — 32nd District
  • Andrew Collins — 35th District
  • Chase Mangiapane — 38th District
  • Monica Ball — 39th District
  • Jonathan Crossley — 41st District
  • Rep. Michael John Gray — 47th Distict
  • Michael Roetzel — 65th District
  • Luke Pruitt — 77th District
  • Jay Richardson — 78th District
  • Lou Reed Sharp — 80th District
  • Donald McKinney — 81st District
  • Denise Garner — 84th District
  • Nicole Clowney — 86th District
  • Kelly Scott Unger — 87th District
  • Megan Godfrey — 89th District
  • Kati McFarlane — 90th District
  • Chris Birch — 92nd District
  • Gayatri Agnew — 93rd District
  • Jene Huffman Gilreath — 94th District
  • Celeste Williams — 95th District
  • Christie Craig — 96th District
  • Gary Morris — 97th District

The Arkansas AFL-CIO was chartered in 1956. It was the first in the nation to merge the AFL and CIO into one state central body, according to its website. The state federation represents more than 30,000 working people in diverse occupations. The national AFL-CIO’s member unions total more than 11 million working women and men.

Not Too Early to Check Voter Registration

Graphic of calendarAs summer starts to course through August. …

  • Political campaigns, with all those ads, traditionally begin in one month, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-3.
  • Now’s a good time for Arkansawyers to check if they’re registered to vote, Type your name and birth date in Voter View to see if you’re already registered. You’ll also learn in which precinct, districts etc. you live.
  • The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election is Tuesday, Oct. 9.
  • Overall Voter Registration Information can be found with the state secretary of state’s office.
  • And early voting begins Oct. 22. If you might not make it in person to your polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, early voting is convenient.