The union of the University of Arkansas presents images and a bit of information on the pandemic — from the worker viewpoint of faculty and staff.
We welcome photos from members and other employees. Send the highest resolution available to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions will be curated. We need as much information on the photos as possible. We’ll protect the privacy of the sender and photographer if requested, but otherwise the more transparent our project is, the more trusted. That’s the point.
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz of the University of Arkansas today, July 13, announced the phasing in of a Living Wage for U of A employees, sought for over two years by the union representing its faculty and staff.
In 2018, the Local 965 launched its Living Wage campaign, gathering more than 700 signatures in support of higher wages while supporting the campus food pantry that served food-insecure employees and students.
“This is a long overdue and desperately needed raise for many UA employees,” said Bret Schulte, president of UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965. “We believe this decision shows the power of coming together and magnifying our voices until we are heard.”
Unfortunately, the chancellor’s plan does nothing for the many graduate students on 9-month appointments who are working for poverty level wages.
“The plan only offers a hope of a raise for those few graduate students who are on 12-month appointments and leaves the bulk of our TAs out in the cold at a time when the economy is cratering and teaching opportunities are uncertain,” Schulte said. “We will continue to fight on behalf of our graduate students and for stronger, more equitable and more competitive University of Arkansas.”
The national pay campaign is based on the Living Wage calculation, the least income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs, higher than a subsistence wage rate and the federal and state minimum wage laws.
The Fayetteville campus would eventually see a minimum salary of $30,000 a year for full-time employees and $15,000 for TAs, who work half time, generally teaching undergraduates, according to a June 10 announcement from Steinmetz.
In June, the local helped graduate students write and launch a petition for higher stipends that garnered hundreds of signatures and media coverage, Schulte said.
“The university told employees for decades that it had no control over wages for classified staff, abdicating responsibility for poverty-level wages,” Schulte said. “Classified employees generally earn hourly wages and work as non-teaching staff. Rather than paying employees a fair wage, the university opened a food pantry on campus. For the last two years, we have argued that UA employees deserve better. Those voices have been heard, and answered.”
“Today’s announcement shows what is possible when we have a union. The Local 965 thanks everyone who signed its petitions and thanks Chancellor Joe Steinmetz for his commitment to investing in the people that make the University of Arkansas work. He has done what past chancellors dismissed as impossible. We are proud of our university, proud of our community. We will continue to work to build a prosperous, uncompromising and exceptional University of Arkansas.”
Schulte is an associate professor of journalism. Local 965 is an affiliate of the Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association.
University of Arkansas Union Calls for Renaming of Brough Commons
At its June membership meeting, the University of Arkansas Education Association/Local 965 passed a resolution calling for the university to change the name of the Charles Hillman Brough Commons on the Fayetteville campus to the Wiley A. Branton Sr. Commons.
The local declared that Brough’s role in the Elaine Massacre of 1919, in which an estimated 150 to 400 African Americans were killed by white mobs in Phillips County, “renders him unworthy to be celebrated on a campus that prides itself on being welcoming to students, staff, and faculty of all races.”
Instead, Local 965 calls for the commons to be renamed to honor Branton, the prominent civil rights attorney and 1953 graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law who earlier helped Silas Hunt integrate the university.
The call to rename the commons, said local Vice President Michael Pierce, an associate professor of history, is “just one part of the larger effort to address the systemic racism that has persisted on campus far too long.”
The Elaine Massacre was the response of local whites to Black sharecroppers and tenant farmers organizing a union to prevent planters and landlords from cheating them out of the profits from crops they produced. For four days (Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 1919), white mobs roamed southern Phillips County, along the Mississippi River on the eastern edge of the state, killing or arresting those whom they suspected of participating in the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. Five white men also were killed, most of them from friendly fire.
In the aftermath of the Elaine Massacre, Brough, the 1917-21 governor, failed to secure justice to the victims by attempting to cover up the murders of African Americans and blaming union members and their allies for the deaths of the five white men, and refusing to commute the sentences of the African Americans who were unjustly convicted of killing the five white men.
Brough endorsed the findings of a local committee that blamed the massacre victims for the five white deaths: “The present trouble … is a deliberately planned insurrection of the Negroes against the whites directed by an organization known as the ‘Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America,’ established for the purpose of banding Negroes together for the killing of white people” (cited in Moore v. Dempsey 261 U.S. 86 ).
Brough praised the white residents of Phillips County for their actions during the four days of violence: “The situation at Elaine has been well handled. … The white citizens of the county deserve unstinting praise for their actions in preventing mob violence” (Arkansas Gazette, Oct. 4, 1919).
Brough launched a cover-up campaign that denied the deaths of the African Americans. According to Stockley, the foremost historian of the Elaine Massacre, “Brough had obviously committed himself to a position of totally denying that Blacks had been massacred. … The governor mentioned none of the names of the Blacks who had been killed. They were the enemy” (Blood in Their Eyes, p. 86).
Brough did nothing when Phillips County prosecutors sent 75 union members and allies to the penitentiary for their roles in the so-called “insurrection.”
Brough stood by while Phillips County authorities conducted sham trials and sentenced 12 union members and allies to death for their roles in the so-called “insurrection.”
Brough refused to pardon or commute the sentences of the 12 men sentenced to die, even in the face of a national campaign highlighting the gross injustices of the judicial proceedings. After Brough left office, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the proceedings against the 12 men were so unfair that new trials were required (Stockley, Blood in Their Eyes, p. xxix; Moore v. Dempsey).
During his tenure as governor Charles Brough (1875-1935) failed to protect the Black population of Phillips County and see to it that the rule of law prevailed in the state. He showed callous disregard for Black lives, and that is why there was never any attempt by state officials to count the number of African Americans killed. Having a building at the center of campus honoring Brough is an affront to everyone in the campus community working to promote racial equality and diversity.
Branton, a native of Pine Bluff and World War II veteran, played a critical role in the integration of the University of Arkansas. He travelled to Fayetteville in 1948 to help his friend Silas Hunt enroll at the U of A Law School then a few years later matriculated himself. Following his graduation in 1953, Branton (1923-1988) emerged as one of the nation’s foremost civil rights attorneys.
Branton served as the state NAACP’s lead attorney in the litigation concerning the integration of Little Rock schools in the late 1950s.
Branton, alongside co-counsel Thurgood Marshall, successfully argued Cooper v. Aaron (1958) before the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision was a blow to the nation’s segregationists, undercutting the strategy of “massive resistance.”
Branton was the first director of the Voter Education Project, a program that helped over 600,000 African Americans across the South become eligible to vote in the years before the Voting Rights Act (1965).
Branton served as 1978-83 dean of the Howard University School of Law.
As part of the university’s efforts to address the persistent racism found on the Fayetteville campus, Local 965 calls on Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and the U of A System Board of Trustees to make sure that buildings are named for people who are truly deserving of the respect of all students, staff, and faculty. To this end, the university needs to change the name of Brough Commons to Branton Commons as part of a broader effort to come to terms with the inequities and racism that continue to plague the campus community.
Local 965 Responds to UA ‘Returning to Campus’ Strategy
News Release, June 2, 2020
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz deserves praise for his leadership during the pandemic by swiftly closing campus, avoiding furloughs and lay-offs, and preserving the University of Arkansas’s high standards for education and research. However, the UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 finds the plan released today, “Returning to Campus,” does little to clarify a confusing and potentially dangerous situation for the Fall 2020 semester.
“Returning to Campus” does not go far enough to protect the health of students. We hope to see the administration address the following:
Student housing density. Neither the populations of dormitories nor the Greek houses will be reduced to allow more single-occupant living.
Freshmen are still required to live on campus.
Dining halls are scheduled to operate normally and at full capacity.
No proposals to decrease risk on university buses.
The plan issued by the University of Arkansas does not employ guidelines proposed by the American College Health Association for re-opening campuses. ACHA recommends all students be tested on arrival and that a sample population be tested at regular intervals to gauge the presence of the coronavirus on campus throughout the semester. The guidelines also recommend identifying quarantine space, preferably off campus, for infected students.
U of A staff, which include the lowest-paid employees on campus, are left vulnerable under this plan.
Staff deemed essential will be required to report. Other staff “who are unable to be fully productive remotely” will also be required to work on campus. The plan, though, does not state how such a standard will be assessed nor by whom.
And while it seems clear that U of A employees infected with COVID-19 would be able to use sick leave while in quarantine, it is not clear that they could access benefits and continue to be paid if they are quarantined because of contact with an infected person. Not compensating such employees may encourage them to conceal contact with infected persons, to the detriment of the community.
The plan’s guidelines for faculty, meanwhile, are conflicting. In Section 3, the document states that employees who self-identify as being at enhanced risk of COVID-19 must report to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance for potential (italics added) accommodations. But in Section 4, the plan states “colleges and departments are urged to continue online or remote delivery whenever that is feasible and effective.” The University faculty has proven it can teach effectively online. Does this mean that every faculty member should continue to teach online? Or must he/she have a pre-existing condition that requires an accommodation from the OEOC?
The plan signals to students that the University of Arkansas is returning to business (as mostly) normal, while simultaneously seeming to urge faculty to continue online and remote delivery of education whenever possible.
Getting the re-opening of the University of Arkansas right is critical to its future. We urge the administration to be more specific in its proposals to safeguard the U of A community. Until then, UA faculty and staff have proven they can deliver a high-quality remote education, just as it has since campus closed in March.
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Update — Sunday, June 7, 2020 — University of Arkansas officials on Thursday, June 4, relaxed the longstanding requirement that first-year undergraduates must live on campus unless they present a doctor’s statement indicating an existing medical condition, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. “Covid-19 Allowed as Housing Claim” quotes campus spokesman John Thomas as saying, “If a new freshman is more comfortable living off campus due to Covid-19 concerns, we wanted to give them that option.”
While the article cites one parent’s request back in April, concern about the freshmen dorm mandate was a top criticism in Local 965 response, above, to the “Returning to Campus” document issued earlier that day, June 2. The Local’s analysis was reported in two area media outlets. The official document at this date still does not mention the broadening of the new freshmen exemption.
FAYETTEVILLE, May 1, 2020 — It’s already become widely known, namely appearing on the front page of the April 30 Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but we wanted to share this perhaps surprising victory now, on May Day, International Workers Day.
The University of Arkansas Faculty Senate on a unanimous vote April 29 approved a resolution on flexibility on working remotely as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Local 965 President Bret Schulte, an associate professor of journalism, drafted and presented the motion.
The article “Faculty Supports ‘Choice’ on Classes – UA Group Votes on Fall Resolution” said, “The resolution approved Wednesday states that UA’s faculty senate ‘supports employee choice in continuing to work remotely — be they faculty or staff — out of overwhelming concern for their personal well-being, should university administrators decide to resume face-to-face instruction in the Fall 2020 semester.'”
In response, Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Relations Mark Rushing said in a statement, “All recommendations from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and student governance groups are welcome and will be considered as we work through this situation together. We are also closely monitoring planning and discussions regarding best practices taking place across the higher education community and beyond.”
Bret’s “whereases” and “therefores” (PDF of resolution) were developed from discussions in the Local’s monthly membership meeting (on Zoom) April 16, as our April 26 mailing list announcement noted.
I recommend reading the Demzette article, as Jaime Adame’s reporting contains vital information to unpack. I’m also real proud of Bret!
Bret told me after the meeting “that the Executive Council of the Faculty Senate, at my suggestion, is considering creating a committee that would survey UA employees for gaps in training and material for remote instruction.”
All this brings me around to asking each of you this balmy May Day to join or rejoin your union, UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965.
We have the ear of a growing number of groups, leaders and other gatekeepers. The larger our group, indeed, the more clout we have.
And U of A employees need our influential voice, as the Covid-19 pandemic has been making very clear.
Our dues range from $50 a month for full-time faculty to $12 a month for part-time staff. We are working with AEA/NEA to reduce graduate assistants from that $12 to zero dues. What do you get for your money? Glad you asked.
Ben Pollock, Local 965 secretary
Note: This piece was first emailed to members and interested U of A colleagues May 1. It’s been edited slightly here.