News

Supporters Rally for U of A Living Wage Campaign

Area Media Cover Event

Local 965 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees launched its University of Arkansas Living Wage Campaign with a rally April 7, 2018.

News reports included:

Walter Hinojosa listens as D'Andre Jones speaks April 7, 2018, at the University of Arkansas Living Wage Rally at the Fayetteville Town Center Plaza. Hinojosa is president of the Northwest Arkansas Joint Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Jones is a member of the Northwest Arkansas MLK Council, chair of the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission. Photo Bret Schulte
Walter Hinojosa listens as D’Andre Jones speaks April 7, 2018, at the University of Arkansas Living Wage Rally at the Fayetteville Town Center Plaza. Hinojosa is president of the Northwest Arkansas Joint Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Jones is a member of the Northwest Arkansas MLK Council, chair of the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission.
Photo Bret Schulte
Image of UA Living Wage Petition
Click image for PDF of petition supporting the University of Arkansas Living Wage Campaign.

The noon rally, held in unseasonable 29-degree weather following an overnight light snow, attracted some 40 people to the Fayetteville Town Center plaza, adjacent to the city’s Farmer’s Market.

Signatures were gathered for a petition to present to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, UA System President Don Bobbitt and the system’s Board of Trustees. An online version of the petition can be signed at change.org, which will help advance the cause greatly.

Steve Boss, UA professor of geosciences and incoming 965 secretary-treasurer, introduced the rally’s speakers:

  • Arley Ward, president of the University of Arkansas Graduate Student Congress
  • D’Andre Jones of the Northwest Arkansas MLK Council and chair of the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission
  • Walter Hinojosa, president of Northwest Arkansas Joint Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • Denise Garner of Feed Fayetteville, a Democratic candidate for Arkansas House District 84
  • Mike Lee, Democratic candidate for Arkansas attorney general

Citing statistics analyzed by incoming AFSCME 965 Vice President Mike Pierce, an associate professor of history, Boss explained how the lowest paid full-time UA staff members have financial trouble, to the extent a significant segment use the campus’s Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry. Boss emphasized that graduate student research and teaching assistants have a harder time, working on a 50 percent basis, that is 20 hours a week with no benefits. Specifically, a minimum wage for $14.42 an hour is sought.

Ward used his own experiences as a grad assistant in the History Department to explain hardships while studying to earn higher degrees.

Jones examined the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and how the civil rights leader toward the end of his short life came to emphasize the importance of workers’ rights along with civil rights. King was assassinated 50 years and three days earlier helping Memphis municipal employees who were striking for better conditions and wages.

Hinojosa interplayed the history of the labor movement with current economic conditions at the university and across the country. He cited experiences from his organizing career in Arkansas and earlier in Texas.

Garner related what she has learned from many years of working in area nonprofits along with political realities of living during the Trump administration.

Lee presented a policy-oriented legal viewpoint of the state executive, legislative and judicial branches, which have been run conservatively in recent years. He is “a Little Rock attorney and a former compliance officer for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission,” according to The Associated Press.

Starling Ledbetter opened and closed the program with songs, accompanying herself on guitar.

A gallery can be viewed at Photos of the 2018 U of A Living Wage Rally.

Photos of the 2018 U of A Living Wage Rally

Interested people can sign a petition for a minimum living wage to be set for University of Arkansas employees either by printing a PDF petition or open an online version of the petition to sign digitally at change.org.

 

Two Fact Sheets

Cherry tree in front of Old Main
Cherry tree in front of Old Main, University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas Living Wage Campaign Fact Sheets

Full-time Employees

According to a massive empirical study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic geographer Amy Glasmeier, for an Arkansas family with two working adults and two children to live independently with adequate food and housing, each of the working adults needs to earn $14.12 per hour or $29,369.60 per year. (Source: livingwage.mit.edu/states/05.)

  • Graphic for change.org online petition to UA Living Wage Campaign
    Click image to sign online. Also available is a PDF of the print petition that includes a summary of the U of A Living Wage Campaign.

    618 of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,320 full-time classified employees (clerical, grounds, maintenance, janitorial, etc.) earn less than $29,369.60 per year. In other words, 47 percent of these full-time employees make less than what is needed to support a typical family. (Source: Excel spreadsheet provided by the University of Arkansas’s Office of University Relations, March 30, 2018.)

  • The median pay for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,320 full-time classified employees is $30,016—just barely over the minimum needed to support a typical family. (Source: Excel spreadsheet, March 30, 2018.)
  • 26 of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,320 full-time classified employees earn less than $20,000. 361 earn less than $25,000. (Source: Excel spreadsheet, March 30, 2018.)
  • The University of Arkansas’s Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry reports that 51 percent of its clients in the most recent period identified themselves as “Staff” or “Hourly Workers.” Moreover, “Staff” were more likely than undergraduates or graduate students to visit the pantry on a recurring basis. (Source: email dated February 23, 2018.)
  • Walmart now pays its starting employees $11.00 per hour. 280 full-time classified employees earn less than that on an hourly basis. (Source: www.cnbc.com/2018/01/11/walmart-to-boost-starting-wage-give-employees-bonus-after-tax-bill.html; Excel spreadsheet, March 30, 2018.)
  • Amendment 33 to the Arkansas Constitution provides the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees the authority to set wages on its campuses.

Graduate Assistants

According to a massive empirical study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic geographer Amy Glasmeier, the Living Wage for a single adult in the State of Arkansas is $21,597 before taxes. That is the amount of income needed for a single adult to live independently with adequate food and housing. (Source: livingwage.mit.edu/states/05.)

  • 1,334 of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,375 Graduate Assistants on 50 percent appointments earn less than $21.597. In other words, 97 percent of these Graduate Assistants make less than what a single adult needs to maintain adequate food and housing. (Source: Excel spreadsheet provided by the University of Arkansas’s Office of University Relations, March 30, 2018.)
  • The median pay for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,375 Graduate Assistants on 50 percent appointments is $13,733. (Source: Excel spreadsheet, March 30, 2018.)
  • 60 of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s 1,375 Graduate Assistants on 50 percent appointments earn less than $10,000. 159 earn less than $12,000. 857 earn less than $15,000. (Source: Excel spreadsheet, March 30, 2018.)
  • 48 percent of all University of Arkansas, Fayetteville graduate students reported being Food Insecure—that is not knowing where the next meal will be coming from—at some point during the last twelve month period for which date is available. (Source: service.uark.edu/foodprograms.)
  • Graduate Assistants are vital to the core teaching and research mission of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Of the 697 colleges and universities in the U.S. News and World Reports annual survey, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville ranks 9th in the percentage of classes taught by Graduate Assistants. 18 percent of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville classes were taught by Graduate Assistants in the most recent year for which data is available. (www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2017-02-21/10-universities-where-tas-teach-the-most-classes.)

 

Local Elects Officers, Board, Trustees

Bret Schulte
Bret Schulte

At its March 26, 2018, meeting, a quorum of Local 965, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, chose Bret Schulte as president, succeeding Betty Martin.

Other officers elected, unanimously as a slate, were Mike Pierce as vice president, Steve Boss as secretary-treasurer and Kelly Hammond as recording secretary.

Board positions are being filled by George Martin, Cyndi Nance and Bruce McNully, who had been secretary-treasurer.

Incoming trustees are Martin, Ted Swedenburg and Ben Pollock, who also will serve as communication director.

Schulte on Monday was chosen to immediately succeed Dan Sims as vice president as an interim position. Schulte will assume the presidency later in the spring.

Local 965 is based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and its members are public employees in Northwest Arkansas or work in the University of Arkansas System.

U of A Living Wage Rally Lines Up Speakers

Press Release

UA Living Wage Campaign in circleFAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — A union local is staging a rally to support increased wages for lower-tier employees of the University of Arkansas.

Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has announced a program for the U of A Living Wage Campaign for noon to 1 p.m., Saturday, April 7, on the plaza outside the Fayetteville Town Center. The union represents university staff and faculty as well as other governmental employees in the area.

“This is an effort to increase the wages of the lowest paid university employees. We applaud the efforts that Chancellor [Joseph] Steinmetz has made over the last year, but faster action is needed,” said Michael C. Pierce, an associate professor of history on the Fayetteville campus.

UA logo
Click image for Fact Sheets on U of A Full Timers, Grad Assistants.

Local 965 is gathering signatures for a petition to present to Steinmetz, UA System President Donald Bobbitt and the system’s Board of Trustees. An online version of the petition can be signed at change.org.

It was on behalf of an AFSCME public workers strike that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis in 1968, where he was assassinated on April 4. The Living Wage rally also will address the 50th anniversary of King’s death.

The Living Wage Campaign document reads as follows:

“AFSCME Local 965 and the undersigned petitioners ask that you use the authority granted you by Amendment 33 of the constitution of the state of Arkansas to take immediate steps to ensure that:
“1. All University of Arkansas at Fayetteville employees, including students, are paid a living wage ($30,000 per year or $14.42 per hour)
“2. All University of Arkansas at Fayetteville graduate teaching and research assistants (50 percent appointments) are paid at least $15,000 per year
“3. All University of Arkansas at Fayetteville subcontractors pay their employees at least $14.42/hour
“The Local 965 and undersigned petitioners believe these increases in wages will help correct the longstanding, unjustifiable inequities among university employees and alleviate near-poverty conditions among a staff that is essential to the functioning of the flagship of the University of Arkansas system. These overdue pay raises will reduce dependency on SNAP benefits, ARKids and Medicaid, thereby freeing working people of reliance on state programs.
“A living wage benefits the University by boosting employee morale and decreasing turnover. Most importantly, paying a living wage is a moral imperative for a university whose mission is to advance the welfare and prosperity of the state.
“To prevent living wages from increasing the tuition burden for Arkansas students, Local 965 and the undersigned petitioners ask that the university fund these raises through existing revenues, namely a moratorium on salary increases for administrators already earning more than $100,000 annually until these goals are met.”

Speakers at the rally include:

  • Denise Garner of Feed Fayetteville, a Democratic candidate for Arkansas House District 84
  • Walter Hinojosa, president of Northwest Arkansas Joint Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • D’Andre Jones of the Northwest Arkansas MLK Council, chair of the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission
  • Mike Lee, Democratic candidate for Arkansas attorney general
  • Arley Ward, president of the University of Arkansas Graduate Student Congress

Steve Boss, Ph.D., University of Arkansas professor of geosciences, will host the program.

Local 965 has the website arkansas965.org and accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Local 965 supports University of Arkansas System employees throughout the state and governmental employees in the four Northwest Arkansas counties of Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington.

Local 965 officials point out that since 2011 the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry on campus provides emergency food assistance to current students and staff members who request it. This indicates a significant segment of the UA workforce is feeling an unfair economic pinch.

The Local is also calling for graduate teaching and research assistants on 50% appointments to receive at least $15,000 for the academic year. Pierce noted that the University’s recent growth has increased its dependence on these graduate students to fulfill its core missions of teaching and research. Yet many of these vital employees are living in poverty. The University’s own statistics show that over the past year 48 percent of graduate students were food insecure at one point.

“This is local people helping local people, a grassroots effort to promote the well being of the lowest paid staff members and to fight poverty in the region,” Pierce said. “We believe that if there’s $12 million to pay a football coach not to work at the University of Arkansas, the Board of Trustees can find the money to pay all of its workers a living wage.”