Why should I join Local 965, UA-Fayetteville Education Association?
The most important reason to join a union is to foster change at the workplace through an amplified voice of the workforce. The power of any union to enact an agenda of equity, fair compensation and workplace safety depends on the strength of its membership. The local already is engaged in campaigns to ensure that all workers are paid a living wage, to give voice to those who are concerned with guns on campus, among other issues.
That Local 965 belongs to the Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association has powerful advantages, both in the workplace and personally.
What are the goals of Local 965?
Local 965 represents the interests of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, employees — full time and part time — from faculty (tenure and tenure track to instructors and adjuncts) to educational support professions (i.e. staff) to graduate teaching and research assistants. The local is pursuing clear, tangible goals to benefit the faculty, staff and students. It has prioritized two efforts:
- The U of A Living Wage campaign to encourage the university to increase stipends for graduate teaching and research assistants to at least $15,000 per year and to increase wages for all its poorest-paid staff to at least $30,000 per year. The petition-driven campaign launched in spring 2018 and is ongoing. [Official university policy follows state law in neither encouraging nor prohibiting union membership of its employees.
- The removal from guns on campus. A radical 2017 state law permits students, staff and faculty to carry concealed weapons on campuses and other public places, threatening the safety of employees and students. [A related law details exemptions such as athletic events and teaching hospitals.] Local 965 opposes the legislation, and it organized the first public hearing with university officials to demand answers on how the law would be implemented and how infractions would be handled. The forum resulted in a formalization of such policies from the university. The Local 965 continues to explore ways to alter or repeal the law.
Is it legal to join a union in Arkansas?
Yes. Amendment 34 to the Arkansas State Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to join a union. In fact, it is illegal for an employer to fire a person because of membership in a union. The amendment is explicit: “No person shall be denied employment because of membership in or affiliation with or resignation from a labor union, or because of refusal to join or affiliate with a labor union.”
Arkansas is a so-called right-to-work state, which means that union membership is not required in a unionized workplace. Even if a worker does not join a union, he/she is entitled to the benefits secured by the union. Many union members believe so-called “right-to-work” laws are meant to cripple union bargaining power by encouraging workers not to join them, but the laws do not prohibit unions.
Furthermore, the University of Arkansas System allows union membership in Board of Trustees Policy 460.1 Employees Joining Labor Unions.
That said, any employee — from tenured prof to a part-time hourly — is subject to workplace discipline or a negative workplace environment, where at could be root one’s affiliation with some group including a union. To fight this or any discrimination, union membership has value there.
How long has Local 965 been around?
The Arkansas Public Employees Union APEU was founded in 1962, chartered in 1966 by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to represent University of Arkansas employees and area municipal workers. AFSCME authorized Local 965 to represent government employees in nine counties through Northwest and North-Central Arkansas and later to also represent any U of A System employee.
Why did Local 965 reaffiliate?
In its 57 years through 2019, APEU’s membership numbers fluctuated but gradually diminished. Growth resumed in 2017 when some U of A faculty and staff looked for ways to oppose creation of a state law allowing gun owners with enhanced concealed carry licenses to take firearms on campuses. They joined Local 965. Meanwhile in 2018 AFSCME merged its Council 38, covering Arkansas locals, into Louisiana’s Council 17. Local 965 officers found the enlarged council unresponsive and resumed informally calling themselves the APEU. After months of deliberation and back-and-forth with several national unions, a quorum of the APEU general membership voted in late 2019 for affiliating with the Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association. The membership was impressed with AEA/NEA’s influence in the state capital and its leadership’s eagerness for higher education representation. In a state with no collective-bargaining rights for public-sector employees, our members decided the best way to pursue a pro-worker policy was to be represented by the most effective lobbyists for education employees in Arkansas, the AEA/NEA, which boasts over 12,000 members statewide.
What impact does the June 2018 Supreme Court ruling Janus v. AFSCME have here?
As Arkansas already is a right-to-work state, Janus will have little immediate impact. However, the ruling forces public employee unions to change how they operate nationwide, which will have an impact at the local level in policies, financing and influence.
What voting precinct do I live in, and how can I find out who my state legislators are?
Type your name and birth date in Voter View to see if you’re already registered and in which precinct, districts etc. The state secretary of state’s office provides overall Voter Registration Information. Use the My Officials form, giving your home’s full street address where it indicates “Street” and the town in the City field.
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