FAYETTEVILLE, 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.
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.”
A significant segment of university employees are paid less than commonly accepted living wages. Also, graduate teaching and research assistants though generally part time rely heavily on their pay, which is substandard. One proof is the campus’s 7-year-old Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry.
College pay is the focus of a petition. It will be submitted to top officials of this campus and the UA System.
Mike Pierce (from left), Ted Swedenburg, Kelly Hammond, Bret Schulte and Steve Boss manage the Local 965 information table Jan. 20 at the Fayetteville Women’s March 2018, at the downtown square. Photo, Betty Martin
Bret Schulte (from left), Ben Pollock and Kelly Hammond take a breather while running the Local 965 information table Jan. 20 at the Fayetteville Women’s March 2018, at the downtown square. Photo, Betty Martin
Local 965 members Steve Boss and Bret Schulte at the Fayetteville Women’s March 2018 on Jan. 20. Photo, Betty Martin
AFSCME members Ben Pollock (left) and Ted Swedenburg parade the Local 965 banner Jan. 20 at the Fayetteville Women’s March 2018. Member Steve boss’s shoulder is at far left. Photo, Christy Pollock
Members of Local 965, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees participated in the Fayetteville Women’s March 2018 on Jan. 20.
A rally began the program at noon outside the Fayetteville Town Center. Local blues singer Ocie Fisher serenaded the crowd that easily surpassed 1,000 women, men, a number of children and a few pets. Rally organizers estimated 3,000 people attended.
Speakers included area politicians such as 965 member Mayor Lioneld Jordan, and prominent activists such as 965 member Law School Professor Cyndia Nance, Mohja Kahf, Blanca Estevez, Evelyn Rios Stafford, Raven Cook and Caitlin Wood.
The march portion of the program began about 1:30. While originally set to head a few blocks north to the Washington County Courthouse on sidewalks alongside College Avenue (U.S. 71 Business), rally leaders accepted civil authorities’ request to travel a similar distance east along Mountain Street ending at the Fayetteville Public Library.
965 members President Betty Martin, Steve Boss, Mike Pierce, Bret Schulte, Ted Swedenburg, Kelly Hammond and Ben Pollock ran the information table and later held its 6×3-foot bright green banner through the march.
Here are news reports of the event. Updates will be noted.
Mike Pierce and Tricia Starks represent AFSCME Local 965 at Fayetteville’s Martin Luther King Jr. march Jan. 15, 2018.
Mike Pierce (left) and Ted Swedenburg represent AFSCME Local 965 at Fayetteville’s Martin Luther King Jr. march Jan. 15, 2018.
AFSCME 965 members Ted Swedenburg and Mike Pierce represent the local in Fayetteville’s 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom March.
About 400 people braved the cold to commemorate the life of King, the pastor and civil rights leader who was assassinated while leading an AFSCME sanitation workers strike in Memphis in 1968.
The local program was organized by the Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council. The march moved along Razorback Road from Martin Luther King Boulevard to the University of Arkansas Union. A vigil with speeches and a performance by the Inspirational Chorale followed in the union. The day ended with the council’s 22nd annual MLK Recommitment Banquet at the Fayetteville Town Center.