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Three Cheers for NEA — Ra Ra RA

UA Takes Its First Seat at NEA Convention

By Ben Pollock, Local 965 secretary

This report first was published in the July 2022 newsletter of UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965.

Lots of us this summer have had to consider both mass shootings and reproductive rights. I ended up diving headfirst into both over July 4 in Chicago.

When the Local 965 officers asked for volunteers this spring to represent the union at the annual National Education Association convention, I expected serious intensity and not enough free time (as that’s how conferences usually go) but not four 12-hour days of debates and electronic votes among nearly 6,000 colleagues.

Whew.

Nor did I expect the honor of being the first University of Arkansas representative and the first higher-education delegate for the whole state at the NEA Representative Assembly, the convention’s official name.

Gun violence topped the July 3-6 agenda even before the Fourth of July mass shooting in suburban Highland Park — 30 miles from the gathering. RA delegates were told not to leave the McCormick Place hall in the hours the suspect was at large.

The first resolution, including a budget to fund it, begins:

“The NEA shall issue a National Call to Action to ensure that all students, educators, schools, campuses and communities are safe from gun violence.”

The measure, passed overwhelmingly, authorizes nearly a half-million union dollars to execute the call’s seven points, which are detailed along with the other approved New Business Items in the last issue of its daily convention newsletter RA Today (PDF).

Masking and social distancing were enforced at Chicago’s McCormick Place as well as during state caucuses held in delegates’ hotel meeting rooms before the RA convened daily. Covid-19 was such a concern the NEA staff continuously screened at the entrances everyone attending with a mobile phone app that green-lit completed vaccination records and negative, recent test results.

At the first Arkansas caucus July 2, I was elected its secretary. It was like being jury foreman in that no one knew me yet seemed a reasonable choice. I took minutes starting at 6:30 a.m. for the coordinating committee then the caucus at 7:30. We were bused to McCormick Place around 9 a.m., returning after 7 p.m.

While there was token parliamentary opposition to finding ways to promote and lobby about gun controls, a vocal minority made points about abortion, chiefly why is the public educators’ union stepping there and whether a pro-abortion stand is worth some member resignations.

Yet New Business Item 34’s two votes were 74 percent and 76 percent in favor:

“NEA will publicly stand in defense of abortion and reproductive rights and encourage members to participate in activities including rallies and demonstrations, lobbying and political campaigns, educational events, and other actions to support the right to abortion, contraception, and a person’s decision about their health.” The cost for its promotion beyond the already set NEA budget is just $4,500.

The assembly adopted, with minimal opposition, three measures that variously supported expansion of and opposed restrictions to LGBTQ+ rights.

For me, the 2022 RA with some dozen and a half miked lecterns throughout the audience (the hangar-like McCormick felt like the wings of two 747s wouldn’t touch) provided almost surreal observations of real mass democracy in strict parliamentary practice, noisy and orderly, exhausting but riveting. In queue two-plus hours for Secret Service body and bag searches July 5, when Vice President Kamala Harris spoke, became part of the spectacle.

All was comprehensively reported July 7, 2022, in Education Week at “Abortion, Anti-LGBTQ Bills, and Safe Schools: 5 Things to Know From NEA’s Annual Assembly” by Madeline Will, who noted in apparent response to Fox News comments, “This year Education Week was the only news outlet covering the entirety of the assembly.”


Note: Caption for the two photos: Ben Pollock of UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 takes the minutes July 3, 2022, (left) of the morning Arkansas caucus meeting July 3, 2022, at Chicago’s Drake Hotel. At right, Pollock listens to debate July 4, 2022, at the NEA Representative Assembly at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention complex. Photos by Kyle Leyenberger, AEA communications director.

Resolution for Bodily Autonomy

The UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 stands in support of women’s bodily autonomy, right to privacy, equality under the law and unfettered reproductive choice. The Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling has destabilized not just our legal system but the society it governs by demonstrating its frightening, politically motivated disregard for the freedom of an entire class of people.

Local 965 supports full human rights, including abortion access, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the union of University of Arkansas employees at all levels and stations, Local 965 is particularly concerned about health care access for women on campus.

Local 965 calls on the University of Arkansas to take whatever steps possible to protect the reproductive health needs of students, staff and faculty — including but not limited to:

  • Increased availability of contraceptives
  • No-cost birth control pills
  • Insurance coverage for medical travel for procedures not available locally
  • Ensuring Pat Walker Health Center Gyn Clinic continue all current practices on campus, including diagnostics, treatment and counseling

The union opposes laws and policies that restrain campus health care professionals. The union supports UA health care professionals to avoid self-restraint or self-censorship in treating and advising women, due to fear of possible legal action or employment sanctions.


The Local 965 Executive Board approved this resolution 8-0 by email discussion.

Donation Recommendations

Arkansas Abortion Support Network AASN logo

Arkansas Abortion Support Network is “an all-volunteer, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to reduce barriers to abortion access in Arkansas” It uses ActBlue for online donations.

Logo for the Great Plains region of Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood accepts general donations online or you can click on its “Specific Giving” tab to select Arkansas/Great Plains region, with centers in Rogers and Little Rock.

References

UA Workers Union Proudly Joins Pride Events

Sudden Showers Slowed Neither the Pace nor the Enthusiasm

The labor organization of the University of Arkansas again participated in the area’s Pride events, the 2nd annual Trans March and 18th annual Pride Parade, June 18, 2022. The crowd easily numbered in the thousands.

The day’s small chance for rain turned to 100 percent 45 minutes before the Parade’s 5 p.m. start. The steady shower slowed for most of the event — flowing west along the whole commercial section of Dickson Street — then drenched onlookers and participants as the rally ended at the foot of the campus.

The PRIDE registered student organization hosted several UA groups including UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965, marching as one unit among other entities, proficiently overseen by Northwest Arkansas Equality with assistance by the city of Fayetteville and law enforcement.

Holding the 965 banner were the local’s vice president, Mike Pierce, and secretary, Ben Pollock, joined by board member Chad Kieffer as well as member Trish Starks.

Kieffer and Gliszinksi represented Local 965 for the noon Trans March, the second annual.

The Fayetteville Flyer posted some six dozen photos on the online publication’s Facebook page with details in an article. KNWA-TV’s report included interesting interviews and video snippets. Details on the facets of Saturday’s Pride Festival were previewed at the Fayetteville Flyer’s NWA Pride Festival Schedule.

While individual members of UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 have participated individually in years past, the union participated as an entity in 2021 and now. The event is organized where various University of Arkansas groups participate as its own unit, organized by the registered student organization UARK PRIDE, celebrating its 40th anniversary. The daylong Pride Festival including the march and parade were proficiently overseen by Northwest Arkansas Equality with assistance by the city of Fayetteville and law enforcement.

View Student Debt Strategies Webinar

Since the May 19, 2022, live-streamed webinar on the NEA/Savi student loan forgiveness program, the Arkansas Education Association has received requests for a recording of the hour.

It was announced at its beginning that this seminar — led by Aaron Warner, an affiliate relations specialist for NEA Member Benefits, and Renee Johnson, AEA UniServ director — would not be taped.

Johnson, however, is sharing a PDF file of the slide presentation that’s being used by Warner and others in the administration of the National Education Association, as well as a video of the program, hosted by Ronny Lau, on the NEA Government Relations team in Washington.

The PowerPoint is “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reforms and Temporary Waiver” (PDF).

Helping Johnson organize and promote the webinar were UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 and other NEA locals including Fayetteville Education Association, Bentonville Education Association, Springdale Education Association, Rogers Education Association, and smaller AEA chapters such as Huntsville’s and Mountain Home’s.

The NEA program focuses on federal college loans and specifically on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. That plan, which ends in several months, is for any employee of a public organization including workers in any government and some nonprofits. NEA here is helping employees in public education – from K-12 to higher ed and from teachers and professors to support staff.

Local’s Picnic Table Attracts Hundreds

Of Ants? No, UA Employees

UA Staff Appreciation Picnic 1st Since 2019

One in-person University of Arkansas event that was sorely missed during the coronavirus pandemic has been the Staff Appreciation Picnic each spring. It returned May 19, 2022, with more than 1,000 support employees coursing through the concessions corridor of Reynolds Razorback Stadium for lunch. On their way out an incredible number stopped at the table of Local 965.

  • Local 965 Vice President Mike Pierce talks across the table with a U of A staff member May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. At-large Board Member Chad Kieffer answers questions of two other staff employees.
  • A U of A staff member signs up for the Local 965 mailing list May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
  • 965 At-Large Board Member Chad Kieffer answers questions of a U of A staff member as others stand by May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
  • Several U of A staff members examine the brochures or sign up for the Local 965 mailing list May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
  • U of A staff members consider brochures and souvenirs at the Local 965 table May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
  • 965 Treasurer Hershel Hartford talks with a U of A staff member May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

They picked up brochures and souvenirs, and many dozens signed up for the campus union’s mailing list.

” A big day for the Local 965,” said 965 President Bret Schulte. “We were bowled over by the interest.”

Running the table in addition to Schulte, were Vice President Mike Pierce, Treasurer Hershel Hartford, At-Large Board Member Chad Kieffer, member John Riley and Arkansas Education Association UniServ Director Renee Johnson. Secretary Ben Pollock did advance work.

This is the biggest event of the year where Local 965 members can explain to UA support staff who we are. The purpose is education not recruitment.

By the way, lunch included hot dogs, grilled chicken breasts with barbecue sauce, Beyond vegan burgers as well as potato salad, veggie baked beans and chips, with ice cream and snack cakes for dessert along with cold drinks. A great late spring day on the Fayetteville campus.

965 President Bret Schulte talks with two U of A staff members May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Local 965 President Bret Schulte talks with two U of A staff members May 19 at the 2022 Staff Appreciation Picnic at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Also helping run the table are Vice President Mike Pierce (from left), member John Riley, At-large Board Member Chad Kieffer and Arkansas Education Association UniServ Director Renee Johnson.