Local’s Leader Reports on National Union Trends

Bret Schulte
Bret Schulte

“The infusion of the middle class into the labor movement means a shifting sense of where social change is most desperately needed. What hasn’t changed is that unions are an effective tool for changing priorities.”

AFSCME Local 965 Arkansas President Bret Schulte, a career reporter currently an associate professor with the University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media, published an article April 12, 2019, on the future of unions in the respected online news publication

The Future of Unions Is White-Collar: Blue-collar Jobs Are Disappearing. But a Powerful New Wave of Organized Labor Is Taking Its Place”

By Bret Schulte

In his research, Schulte found, “more than 1 million professionals have joined unions in the past two decades, reaching an all-time high in 2018 of 6.18 million. The numbers of their blue-collar brethren, meanwhile, have plummeted by 3 million over the same period, according to numbers provided by the AFL-CIO.”

This is a straightforward news story with some analysis, not an opinion piece. It’s just under 2,000 words. Schulte uses transparency, noting in a paragraph mid-piece his union and professional affiliations.

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

Local 965 Joins 2019 NWA Women’s March

Members of AFSCME 965, representing government workers of Northewest and north central Arkansas, rallied then paraded with its banner at the 2019 Northwest Arkansas Women’s March. The winter day was mild on Saturday, Feb. 2 in downtown Fayetteville.

The march served to promote justice for all women. The rally included a drive for supplies for the area Peace at Home Shelter. Two local TV stations reported on the event; here is the NBC affiliate’s story and here the CBS station’s piece.

For 2nd Year, Local Serves at Soup Sunday

Members of AFSCME Local 965 donned their logo green T-shirts and cinched aprons at the waist to help the 18th annual Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday, a key fundraising event for Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, held Jan. 27.

The local organized to help out the first time for the 2018 event last winter. Both times, the benefit was held at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers, Arkanas.

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