Frequently Asked Questions

What is AFSCME?

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public services employees union. “AFSCME has approximately 3,400 local unions and 58 councils and affiliates in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Every local writes its own constitution, designs its own structure, elects its own officers and sets its own dues.”

How long has Local 965 represented Northwest Arkansas municipal workers and University of Arkansas employees?

Founded in 1962, chartered by AFSCME in 1966.

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 quite 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 Labors Unions (PDF).

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. It’s too early for specifics but watch for them to be posted on this website and

Why should I join Local 965 of AFSCME?

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 and to give voice to those who are concerned with guns on campus. Members of AFSCME can find work-related, scholarship and legal benefits in the For Members section. We’re also eligible for AFSCME Advantage benefits, such as discounts on insurance, car rentals and hotels.

What are the goals of Local 965?

Local 965 represents the interests of state, county and municipal workers in nine northwest and north-central Arkansas counties. However, its membership currently is overwhelmingly composed of employees of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. As such, the local is pursuing clear, tangible goals to benefit the faculty, staff and students. It has prioritized two efforts:

1. 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.

2. 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.

If a Local 965 member has a work-related health problem, can AFSCME help? Can a worker get assistance securing workers’ compensation?

In a workers’ comp case, Fayetteville attorney and union supporter Mark Martin can represent the member. Martin only takes a fee if he prevails in the case.

Can the Local 965 defend members in a grievance hearing or facing termination?

Attorney Jim Nickels, former  executive director of AFSCME Council 38 (covering Arkansas), participates in grievance cases. In certain federal cases, Nickels will represent the worker.

Our FAQs are open and will be revised as needed. Have a question? Contact us: