Still Fighting For Progress: 60th Anniversary of the Little Rock Nine

by Anthony Newkirk

 

Elizabeth Eckford, September 4, 1957

How to achieve and maintain school desegregation has never been a fleeting matter and it’s never existed only in the past. The conflict that arose over desegregation at Little Rock’s Central High School in the late 1950s, its legacy, and how this historical process is remembered are literally “local affairs.” The official 60th anniversary of desegregation at Central High in September, and grassroots criticism of it, are cases in point.

We all know the story: Nine courageous black students overcame incredible odds many years ago to gain the right to attend a public school in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was one of the opening dramas of the civil rights movement, we’re told. Every ten years, we celebrate the heroism of the Little Rock Nine (Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010).

But little has fundamentally changed since the U.S. high court handed down a desegregation order directly addressing the Central situation in 1958. By the 1980s, the term “resegregation” had appeared in political discourse. By then, the proportion of black students in the Little Rock School District (LRSD) reached 70 percent due to “white flight” to suburban school districts and an expansion of private schools. This was not supposed to happen with integration. In 1985, Garland County native Roy Reed reported in the New York Times that nearly 60 percent of Central students were black.

Last month, the Central High Integration 60th Anniversary Committee put together an observance of the 1957 events, which included an impressive website and a 30-page publication entitled “Reflections of Progress.” Numerous public and private institutions were sponsors. “Reflections of Progress” contains letters from former President Bill Clinton, Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senator Tom Cotton, Senator John Boozman, Representative French Hill, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore, Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore (chair of the anniversary committee), Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau, Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Gretchen Hall, and Central High National Historical Site Superintendent Robin White.

On September 25, the anniversary of the Little Rock Nine’s entry into Central High guarded by armed paratroopers in 1957, a commemoration was held in Central’s packed auditorium with copious media coverage. Official speakers rehashed widely-held notions. Mayor Stodola characterized events at Central as “one of the first struggles of the civil rights movement” and a “painful moment in our past.” Governor Hutchinson noted the student body “looks different today.” President Clinton talked about his interest in “genomics.” Although advising the Nine to “put on your marching boots” to fight racism, he made the curious observation that “we’re back to tribalism, perfectly understandable.” Although his meandering statements lacked details, he declared that racism is caused by “resentment.”

Choosing President 42 to give the keynote address was ironic. A conservative Democrat, he has an impeccable neoliberal pedigree. In the White House, he championed corporate trade deals, economic warfare against Iraq, NATO-expansion, banking deregulation, harsher prison sentencing, and “welfare reform.” Since his governorship of Arkansas in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was associated with betrayals of organized labor.

There was another irony. Chosen by State Education Commissioner Johnny Key to head the Little Rock School Board (LRSB) over a year ago, Mike Poore sat onstage. Poore’s silence was deafening due to a remarkable series of coincidences over the past few years:

  • March 26, 2013: Facilitating state takeovers of school districts, Arkansas Quality Charter School Act of 2013 signed by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.
  • January 9, 2014. Federal court orders desegregation payments to end in 2018.
  • January 27, 2015. State Board of Education takes control over LRSD, declaring it in “academic distress.” The dissolved school board had been composed of blacks and progressives interested in bringing a measure of equity to the district.
  • March 25, 2015. Johnny Key becomes Education Commissioner with endorsement of Republican Governor Hutchinson. Former GOP lawmaker Key is linked to leading forces in charter school movement.
  • April 13, 2016. Charter school critic Baker Kurrus removed as LRSD Superintendent without explanation, to take effect June 30.
  • May 19, 2016. Board of Education approves new charter schools in LRSD.
  • January 17, 2017. Poore announces closure of four LRSD schools.
  • June 23, 2017. Despite overwhelming defeat of millage extension at polls on May 9, LRSB announces plan to borrow money to build school in Southwest Little Rock.
  • September 14, 2017. Board of Education approves three new charters in LRSD.

In fact, there was not unanimity among the speakers at Central. Besides supporting the right to universal suffrage and healthcare, Professor Henry Louis Gates declared there are “white supremacists in our midst.” The Little Rock Nine had their own comments. Elizabeth Eckford declared untruths were said at the 40th anniversary celebration about day-to-day life at Central (there was constant harassment and isolation). Terrence Roberts observed, “the time to celebrate has not yet come.” By referring to “forces determined to maintain the status quo,” he didn’t mean only 1957. Minniejean Brown Trickey pointed out that President Donald Trump is guilty of “profound intentional ignorance.” Read by her grandson, Thelma Mothershed Wair’s prepared statement called out the dangers posed by charter schools.

Further evidence of persistent misperceptions about desegregation in Little Rock is an exhibit of photographs on display at the Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park. Arkansas Democrat staff photograph Will Counts took now-iconic photographs of the events. One photograph is of Grace Lorch standing next to Elizabeth Eckford at a bus stop outside Central on September 4, 1957. This photograph is absent from the 38 photographs in the exhibit, No mention made of Grace Lorch. This is not a trivial omission because she and her husband, a professor of mathematics at Philander Smith College, organized tutoring for the nine students before they were able to enter the school later in September (material published by the 60th Anniversary Committee doesn’t refer to this, either).

Like the Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas Conference of the NAACP, the Lorches were targets of various forms of harassment. Grace did not have a rosy view of American society. Formerly a Boston, Massachusetts, elementary school teacher, she wrote in the newsletter of the New Orleans-based Southern Conference Educational Fund that white students at Central “have walls to break down, not as direct victims of race prejudice, but as victims of poverty and ignorance.” She didn’t like the “limited nature” of the desegregation plan devised by Superintendent Virgil Blossom for it “involved in reality only one school and a handful of pupils.” The scheme was “likely to leave the ‘silk stocking’ districts permanently segregated because of attendance areas established and locations of new schools constructed. This has enabled demagogues to agitate some whites fearful of jeopardizing further their own difficult economic positions or losing what little social status they think they possess.”

These prescient words are an apt description of the situation in Little Rock today.

According to “conventional wisdom,” desegregation was uncomplicated and has had nothing to do with current-day disputes about school privatization. A prevalent notion is there’s nothing “political” about charter schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was brought out by the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School.

What the Little Rock Nine experienced as students at Central was real enough. Powerful people who should know better have been hammering away for generations that such experiences are behind us (“some pretty sad times in our history,” as GOP Senator Tom Cotton put it in his letter to the Central High Integration 60th Anniversary Committee). Arkansans are also encouraged to believe that ending local democratic governance over the Little Rock School District (LRSD) is “progress.” This message is spread through outlets of the mass media.

What took place in Central High’s auditorium on September 25 was inauthentic. The “special remarks” of the Little Rock Nine were overshadowed by former President Bill Clinton’s disingenuous keynote address. Barely mentioned in commercial media, a small but growing number of Little Rock residents nevertheless sees through this charade. During the weekend before the official celebration, a program entitled “Sixty Years Still Fighting” was organized by local grassroots groups. The main event took place at the State Capitol the Saturday before the official celebration at Central. Over a hundred or so women, men, youths, and the elderly from different neighborhoods in Little Rock, Pulaski County, and further afield stood on the steps of the State Capitol listening to each other speak. They weren’t so much interested in celebrating abstractions as in addressing how historical reality impacts LRSD students today. There was an air of spontaneity mixed with gravity.

Democratic State Senator Joyce Elliott set the tone for the gathering. She invited people to share their concerns. Toney Orr, an organizer with Local 100 United Labor Unions, drew attention to similarities between integration opponents six decades ago and charter school advocates today; both have used the term “progress” to conceal their real intentions. Brenda Hyde, a community organizer from Jackson, Mississippi, spoke about assaults on public education in the Magnolia State. She stressed this is a national problem. Toney Orr, Jr., a current LRSD high school student, said that public schools perform an important service to the community by aiding disadvantaged children. Charter schools lack the funding to provide appropriate educational services to students with special needs. Toney’s brother Antonio spoke out against the unequal nature of schools in rich and poor districts. It’s unjust that poor families are blamed for “bad schools” when they have little part to play in forming education policies. Paul Spencer, a local Catholic school teacher, voiced support for a democratic LRSD.

Although no TV news teams were present at the State Capitol, information-sharing was the order of the day. In the Supreme Court chamber, Elizabeth Eckford and Thelma Mothershed Wair gave brief words of encouragement to African-American students and the assembled in general. Other speakers included local medical doctor Anika Whitfield, an organizer with Save Our Schools. Senator Elliott and Samantha Toro of Grassroots Arkansas discussed the historical context of the crisis facing today’s LRSD. Small break-out sessions followed where individual participants could bring up matters like inequities in funding for public school districts.

On the evening of the official celebration, a new documentary about charter schools was shown at a local movie theater. Not connected with either Reflection of Progress or Sixty Years Still Fighting, the Anderson Institute for Race and Ethnicity at UALR was the sponsor. The film shows real-life examples of alternatives to charter schools (one is in Little Rock).

Prevailing notions notwithstanding, the Little Rock Nine are not disembodied icons. Ms. Eckford is open about what really happened to her and her friends at Central. The truth is sugar-coated by politicians and “civic leaders.”

Most Americans take it for granted that radical free market “reforms” are inevitable. This line of thinking was best expressed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s when she spoke of TINA (“there is no alternative”). Mayor Stodola employed the TINA method at a public event a week after appearing onstage at Central. He characterized recent “challenges” faced by the LRSD as things of the past (“discussions, some strident and some not-so-strident”).

But the issue is far from resolved. Former Democratic State Senator Jim Argue expressed his concerns with unregulated and unaccountable charter school expansion in Arkansas. Claiming he thought open-enrollment charters would help invigorate public education in Arkansas, Argue backed the Arkansas Charters School Act of 1999 when he was chair of the Senate Education Committee. Too bad he didn’t foresee the slippery slope.

Important pieces of federal legislation protect the investments hedge funds have made in charter schools. Introduced in Congress by William Archer, Republican chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000 gave tax breaks to banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools. Provisions of the bill were incorporated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001, signed into law by Bill Clinton. As reported by Alan Singer, a Hofstra University professor, the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act was reauthorized by Congress under President Barack Obama. Wall Street portfolio managers aren’t modest about the profitability of charter schools at public expense (when charters fail, taxpayers foot the bill).

We should be concerned when powerful special interests want to profit from things that hurt society. It’s time for us to see that some popular notions about, say, the past and the present are dead wrong (we’re usually told there is no link). When we wake up to this, the champions of “progress” won’t always have the last word. The truth always wins out in the end (of course, that’s cold comfort to, say, youths trapped in the school to prison pipeline, or to victims of police violence). The concern of the Little Rock Nine are as urgent now as they were 60 years ago. ACORN, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Standing Rock are evidence of that.

There are a number of lessons we should take to heart:

  • Always care about justice in the world.
  • Become informed; recognize that repeated patterns of activity are often intentional.
  • Always follow the money trail, even when it concerns public education.
  • We’re in for a nasty surprise if we abandon public policy to those not concerned with our best interests.
  • The civil rights struggle didn’t begin in the 1950s and it’s not over.
  • The struggle against Jim Crow was never limited to the South, or to public schools (often forgotten are protests by sharecroppers and other “unskilled” black workers across the South against their exploitation).
  • No “ism,” like racism, genderism, or xenophobia, is isolated from socio-economic factors (whether they develop organically, are planted by design, or arise out of a complicated balance of the two, we see the results and that’s all that really matters).

Segregation in 1950s Arkansas and resegregation today have been part of the larger context of social struggle. We must never forget that reactionaries in all their shifting guises sow confusion by drawing attention to certain things in isolation from other things. It’s equally important to understand that people who see through this trickery are also being intentional.

Public institutions shouldn’t be held hostage to the false narrative of “balanced budgets” and must be open to everyone in a community, no matter what the cost. It’s also time to understand that our capitalist society has a power structure and white supremacy is a crucial part of it. A good starting place is to dispel deeply-held myths about the desegregation of Central High School. This is exactly what the community groups who organized Sixty Years Still Fighting are doing.

 

____________________________________________________________

Anthony Newkirk is a community activist and a Professor of History at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.

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AR Backlog (Pre-Fall 2017)

Community organizers oppose ballot issue on economic development

Copy of Article from Arkansas News.

By John Lyon / Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Community Organizations said Thursday it opposes Issue 3 on the state ballot, saying the measures would sanction unlimited “corporate welfare.”

A ballot question committee formed to support the measure said it would help Arkansas compete with neighboring states for jobs.

In a news conference across the street from an early voting location in downtown Little Rock, the grass-roots community-organizing group said it is urging Arkansans to vote against the multi-part ballot issue, which was referred to the ballot by the state Legislature in 2015 and has been endorsed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the state Chamber of Commerce and numerous local chambers.

Jim Lynch and Toney Orr, both of Little Rock, told reporters they believe the measure is in part a response to a Pulaski County circuit judge’s 2015 ruling that Little Rock and North Little Rock had to stop providing taxpayer dollars to local chambers of commerce because the practice violated the state constitution. Lynch and Orr were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the ruling.

“So what the chamber did, they did an end run” around the judge’s ruling,” Orr said, noting that Issue 3 would amend the state constitution to allow cities and counties to appropriate funds to private entities like chambers of commerce that promote economic development.

The public funds that would go to private entities if Issue 3 is approved would be diverted from the traditional beneficiaries of public money, such as schools, the group said.

Neil Sealy of Little Rock, the group’s executive director, said there is limited transparency for such projects. He said that in August, when he requested information from the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County about applications it received from businesses for state-funded incentives, he was told that some of the information was exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act.

“Shouldn’t taxpayers have access to all of the records regarding a company’s plans for development using taxpayer dollars?” Sealy said in an email after the news conference.

Issue 3 also would would remove a cap on bonds the state can issue for large projects, or “super projects.” The current cap is 5 percent of the state’s general revenue from the most recent fiscal year.

Without a limit, the Legislature could “put the public treasury into poverty. It’s a bad, bad idea — nothing but corporate welfare,” Lynch said.

Jobs for Arkansas, a ballot question committee that supports Issue 3, said in a statement Thursday, “Right now, our state is at a disadvantage when competing with our neighbors for major economic development projects. Issue 3 will enable our cities and counties to fully participate in efforts to bring employers to our communities. It will also enhance the state’s ability to recruit the kind of large-scale projects we all want in our backyard — the kind that creates hundreds of good-quality, high-paying jobs for Arkansans.”

The committee said Hutchinson and dozens of other individuals, organizations and communities across the state “have endorsed Issue 3 because they know it will move our state forward and help create more and better jobs for Arkansas.”

Coverage of Legislative Hearing on Future of Little Rock Education

AR Times: Kurrus: ‘
And here is Arkansas Democrat Gazette story:

Baker Kurrus, who is being replaced as Little Rock School District superintendent when his contract expires June 30, said Monday that he would like to continue to work with the district in a nonpaying role — but only if he can support the district’s guiding policies.

“I am not willing to accept a role in anything unless I know where we are starting from and unless I have a clear indication of where we are headed,” Kurrus said in response to a question about his future during a public forum hosted by Pulaski County legislators on the school district’s leadership change.

About 150 teachers, parents, education organization leaders and displaced Little Rock School Board members attended the 4 p.m. event. City Director Kathy Webb, former Little Rock Superintendent Morris Holmes and Clay Fendley, an attorney who represented the district in a past legal battle over charter schools, were among the speakers.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key announced last month that he is replacing Kurrus — a Little Rock businessman and Harvard-educated attorney whom he appointed to the school district job last year — with Bentonville School District Superintendent Michael Poore. Key made the superintendent change for the state-controlled district without prior notice to or advice from Little Rock community members, large numbers of whom have rallied to support Kurrus.

Key, who was invited but was unable to attend the Monday forum at the state Capitol, has said Poore, who will be paid $225,000 a year, is an educator with the experience necessary to raise student achievement in the district, which was put in state control in January 2015 because six of its 48 schools were state-labeled as academically distressed.

But the commissioner has also praised Kurrus, who was paid $150,000, for his work this past year in strengthening the district’s organizational structure and its finances. Key said he would like Kurrus to have an ongoing role in the district — be it formal or informal. Poore has also said he would like Kurrus to play a part in the operation of the district, which has 25,550 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, told Kurrus that the most frequent question she is asked is whether he wishes to accept a role in the system.

Kurrus said that is a question that he continues to ask himself.

“I will say this … I want to be part of the process to build, but I want to build from a strong foundation. What that means to me right now is I want to understand exactly how we got to where we are. Frankly, I don’t quite understand that, but I hope to and I will. I have a wonderful working relationship with the commissioner. I’ve met Mr. Poore. He is certainly an easy guy for me to talk to.”

Kurrus said he must know what the policies are that will guide or compel the district.

“If I can support those policies and we operate on a firm foundation where we know that we can build and build consistently for the long term, then I am willing to play a role. I don’t think that will be a paid position. I think that is inappropriate. I don’t think that would work for me right now.

“We are going to talk,” he continued. “I hope to get with the commissioner this week and maybe with Mr. Poore at the end of the week to really thoughtfully consider how we can build a strong school district, but there will have to be some indication about the policies and the direction before I sign up.”

He then joked: “I really feel like Mr. Poore and I have both been invited to a shotgun wedding.”

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, asked Kurrus whether he would be willing to continue in the superintendent’s job should Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson “walk this back.”

“You can’t unring the bell,” Kurrus responded. “It’s hard to work for people who don’t want you to work for them.”

Key notified Kurrus that his contract would not be renewed after Kurrus had argued to the Arkansas Board of Education against the nearly 3,000-seat expansion of the eSTEM and LISA charter school systems within the Little Rock district’s boundaries. The independently run public charter schools have historically pulled more affluent, higher-achieving students from the Little Rock district, leaving the traditional school system with a greater percentage of high-need students and fewer resources to educate them.

Key has denied that Kurrus is being replaced because of his charter school stance.

Chesterfield told Kurrus that determining Poore’s position on open-enrollment charter schools is “like working with jello.”

Kurrus said they have only talked twice but that Poore is not the policymaker and will operate under the same constraints as Kurrus in that he will carry out policies and even influence policymaking, but ultimately the state education commissioner is the policymaker for the district, which operates without an elected school board.

“Ultimately, the community has to decide: Do we want a strong, vigorous, traditional school system with charter schools that have a limited purpose? Or do we think it is productive to have large charter systems that essentially act as alternative systems paid for by the state?”

Rep. Charles Armstrong, D-Little Rock, asked Kurrus whether his lack of experience as an educator was a weakness.

Kurrus responded that he never pretended to be an expert in curriculum and instruction and that he doesn’t know how to arrange an elementary school library or teach first-graders how to read.

“But I know very, very good people who do,” he said. “I tried in my role to set up a system where they were empowered and engaged, fully authorized, given clear, articulate goals and resources. Don’t micromanage the people. Micromanage the process so the people are set up to succeed. That’s what I did, and I don’t think I was held back by the fact that I don’t understand some of the things that experienced superintendents do understand.

“If I was in a smaller district where I didn’t have the resources we have in Little Rock, it certainly would be a huge impediment. But I’m surrounded by world-class educators who sometimes weren’t fully empowered to do everything they knew how to do. I didn’t get in their way and I didn’t pretend to tell them how to do their jobs, but I did help them get organized so they could focus on the things they knew how to do.”

He said the district, with its $300 million budget, 4,000 employees and 60 schools and support sites, “is not a mom-and-pop organization. The one thing I felt good about was getting on top of that organization.”

Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, asked Kurrus about the statewide implications of the Little Rock district’s situation.

Kurrus said that 60 percent of the state’s charter school students reside in Pulaski County and, of the students who left the Little Rock district for the eSTEM and LISA charter schools, 81 percent were proficient or better in reading and 77 percent were proficient or advanced in math.

“What is the state’s obligation to fund an alternative education system for students who are succeeding?” he asked, then referred to constitutional language that calls for an “efficient” public education system. “If you begin to segregate students in any circumstance … we need to look very carefully at that no matter who does that and seriously consider whether that is in the community’s best interest. That is the policy issue.”

Austin Bailey, the parent of two elementary pupils, was among the dozen people who took up to three minutes each to express their views about the leadership changes. Bailey called Kurrus “a genuine advocate for our students” and said the district doesn’t need “a savior from the north.” She asked the lawmakers for help in keeping Kurrus on the job.

“He claims us, and we claim him,” she said.

Jeff Grimmett is a teacher at Little Rock’s Henderson Middle School, which is one of the schools labeled by the state as academically distressed because fewer than half of students scored at proficient levels on state exams over three years. He said those schools are improving despite a lack of help from the state, and he called on the governor and Key to release the district from state control.

Grimmett also asked that charter school expansions and the re-segregation of the city’s schools be stopped, that the governor replace Key — a chemical engineer — with an experienced educator, and that the upcoming formation of a community advisory board for the Little Rock district be transparent to the public to re-establish a sense of trust.

Fendley, who represented the Little Rock district in federal court in an unsuccessful legal battle over charter schools, said greater school stability could be achieved in Little Rock if charter schools had to offer bus transportation to students, which they’re not required to do now, and if restrictions were placed on charter schools prohibiting their angry or misbehaving students from leaving their schools in mid-year to return to traditional schools.

Tracey Ann Nelson, executive director of the Arkansas Education Association, told legislators that what happens in the Little Rock district, where there are no community-driven decisions, is a bellwether for the rest of the state. “We are concerned about the chilling effect on those who speak to power,” she said.

Toney Orr, a parent of students in the district and a community activist, compared the district, where he said his rights have been taken away, to “a sharecropper plantation where we are working the fields for the man in the house and the man in the house is calling all the shots.”

Metro on 05/03/2016

Print Headline: Kurrus: Open to role in district; But need to know where LR schools headed, he says

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Bill KopskyThe Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Building a Better Arkansas by putting the PUBLIC back in Arkansas public policy since 1963.
Organize to win.Watch a brief film on our 50 years of social change in Arkansas here.1308 West Second Street
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Growing in Warren, Arkansas

Local 100 welcomes our newest member in Warren, Arkansas.

Local 100 Supporting Public Schools in Little Rock

Local 100 members represent at a town hall meeting to reclaim our schools in the Little Rock.

Workplace Radio on KABF

Listen to the Show

Local 100 Rallies in Arkansas to Save Public Option

Arkansas Signing up New Members at DHS

Arkansas Members at Leadership Conference

I know its late, but here are some pictures from our Leadership conference we had in June. The members in Arkansas are still talking and laughing about what we learned and the fun we had. Our feet are still sore from all the walking but our minds are still full off knowledge and insights we gained. We also want to thank Congressman Al Green for his time and effort to come and speak to us . it was very inspiring. Cant wait until next year! We have our work cut out for Arkansas.

New Members in Warren and Pine Bluff

Hey, we have pictures of new members from Warren and Pine Bluff. Monisha Avery, Wanda Hampton and Ross Lewis are big winners as they become part of Local 100 in Warren. Big things are going on in Warren and we are just not talking about tomatoes. The members of Warren are doing a great job of getting the word out about local 100. Keep up the good work Warren!

Arkansas Welcomes New Member at DCFS and Celebrates a Victory

We want to welcome another new member LaTasha Age is a DCFS (Department of Children and Family Service) worker in Pine Bluff. We are working hard to really get the workers in the Jefferson County Office organized so that we can help get some issues resolved that concern our members. So we will keep grinding away one member at a time.

We also have a great success story from Warren to report also Mrs. Rose Rochell, who was unjustly terminated, has gotten her job back with back pay. What a great victory for a great lady. Ms. Rochell works in the kitchen at the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center and she also makes a good pound cake. So congratulations Ms. Rochell and welcome back to work.

Local 100 Welcomes New Members in Arkansas

These are the faces of our newest members from DHS in Little Rock and Pine Bluff, they are all smiles knowing that Local 100 is here to help them.

Local 100 Cleanup at KABF & New Local 100 Show on KABF

Children and Friends of United Labor Union Organizer Toney Orr of Little Rock, Arkansas did a clean up at KABF Radio Station in Little Rock. They cut grass and picked up debris from around the station and they had a good time doing it.

Reminder that Local 100 is sponsoring a radio show at 9:00 A.M to 9:30 A.M every Thursday morning called “The Workplace.” It is hosted by Toney Orr, our organizer in Little Rock Arkansas. We will be dealing with all topics pertaining to our members and working families in general. So, tune in to 88.3 KABF or live stream KABF 88.3.org and listen to the Work Place. And if you have any comments or stories of interest, call me at 501-588-3272 or email me at workplace88.3@gmail.com.

 

Arkansas Rallies Against Comcast

Members of the United Labor Unions Local 100 and Arkansas Community Organizations and parents who have filed complaints with Comcast cable hold a rally outside KARK-TV , the Local NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas urging Comcast to be more active in getting internet essentials out to more families and to be accountable to what they promised they would do for our children here in Little Rock.

KABF Meet & Greet

KABF sponsored a meet and greet at the Arkansas State Capitol. It gave organizations a chance to see and network with KABF and see what 100,00 watts and the voice of the people could do for their organization.

Local 100 Arkansas Welcomes New Members

We would like to welcome four more ladies from the Warren Human Development Center as new members of Local 100. Over the past 3 months, we have signed up more than forty members before summer. These ladies are just four of the eleven that signed up in one day on the 13th of February. Keep on rolling Warren, job well done.

Protest to End Tax Cuts for the Rich

Protesting at the Arkansas State Capitol members of Local 100 and ACO (Arkansas Community Organization) and in Pine Bluff, AR to end tax cuts for the richest 20% of Americans and to quit out sourcing our jobs. Member Brainard Bivens from Pine Bluff knows it takes all of us fighting together to keep our jobs and to make a difference.

Action at US Rep. Tim Griffin’s Office

Members of Local 100 and Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO) were out in front of U.S Rep Tim Griffin’s office asking him to look out for the middle class and not millionaires. We also wanted Rep. Griffin to know that ending tax cuts for the rich 2% would increase revenue, and it would help states like Arkansas with medicaid and medicare. We also had a meeting with our members in Pine Bluff, along with ACO and other citizens from Pine Bluff. We wanted to inform the community about how the state wants to cut services, medicare and medicaid and long term care which will affect not only our members who work for the Department of Human Services and the people they serve. We know that our members do not want any cuts that may have an adverse impact on jobs and services.

 

Local 100 Welcomes New Members in Warren, Arkansas

Great news from Warren, Arkansas where the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center is located thanks to hard work from our two lead persons Ken Ridgell and Henrietta Collins. We were able to sign up 18 new people and we also have 6 other people who also are ready to become members. Local 100 making a difference in the state of Arkansas and ready to help our state workers.

Local 100 Welcomes New Members in Warren, Arkansas

Great news from Warren, Arkansas where the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center is located thanks to hard work from our two lead persons Ken Ridgell and Henrietta Collins. We were able to sign up 18 new people and we also have 6 other people who also are ready to become members. Local 100 making a difference in the state of Arkansas and ready to help our state workers.

Local 100 Welcomes New Members in Lonoke, Arkansas

August 14th, 2012

These 6 ladies are all smiles after becoming the newest members of Local 100 Arkansas. These ladies work for the Department of Human Services in Lonoke, Arkansas. They joined along with another co-worker who had to get back to work. So, we welcome them to the team, Local 100 a force to be reckoned with in the state of Arkansas.

Local 100 Victory in Lonoke, Arkansas

August 14th, 2012

Stacey Johnson and Eylorna Bones are both feeling good after each scored a victory on their grievances. Both ladies work as investigators in the DHS office for Lonoke, Arkansas. They were both suspended for 5 days without pay. Ms. Johnson states, “I was really upset and felt that I was really treated unfairly. I called Toney and he helped me file the grievance and met with me on Sunday evening and helped me prepare. He always said that we could count on him and that he would always be there to help me. He not only got my suspension overturned but he got me my pay back for those 5 days. He is someone we can depend on.” Mrs. Bones also stated,” nobody has ever had our backs until now. Toney is always there when we need him. He keeps us positive even when we are stressed out over the job that we do. He cheers us on and calms us down. I really did not know if I was going to win but Toney kept me positive. I want everyone to know that a change is coming and its called Local 100 Arkansas.”

Stacey and Eylorna are the reason we do what we do, not only did we get victory, but they are also helping grow the membership. They have helped sign up seven new members in their offices. I just want to take the time to thank Stacey and Eylorna for helping us become a force in the state of Arkansas. We are growing in strength and in numbers and we are going to help make changes for all public employees in the state of Arkansas.

 

Victory for DHS Workers in Arkansas

June 13, 2012

Freida Hostler and Kimberly Steward are smiles after learning that their grievance against the Department of Human Services was a win. “As family service workers, we are always in court and the State is suppose to represent us but because of a mix up in paper work, we were told that we would have to have our lawyer for our court cases. Me and Kim called Toney and he went to work for us and 3 days later, we got a call from chief counsel of DHS but also the Assistant Attorney General for the state of Arkansas telling us that the state would represent us in all our court cases. We really appreciate the hard work Toney did for us, he is always working hard for us and all the other employee in the Jefferson County DHS office in Pine Bluff Arkansas.”

This is just one example of how Local 100 is making a difference in the state of Arkansas. Frieda and Kimberly have helped sign up 7 people in the Pine Bluff and Lonoke offices. They really believe in our motto, “By the people, for the people.”

Arkansas Welcomes New Members!

March 12, 2012

Brainard Bivens, new member at the Jefferson County DHS, gives the universal peace sign as he joins Local 100 United Labor Unions.  He is looking forward to leading other members to their first meeting!

Donnie Ring, new member at Jefferson County DHS, counts his blessings with organizer, Pastor Toney Orr.  Donnie is a returning member from years ago.  He sees the need for unionizing state workers and is ready to stand up in solidarity.

Both Donnie and Brainard are looking forward to their first off work-site meeting with their co-workers.

Coalition Meets with Comcast in Arkansas

February 25th, 2012

Representatives from Local 100 United Labor Unions and Arkansas Community Organizations met with Lisa Birmingham, Regional Vice President from the Comcast office in Michigan, Mike Wilson, Vice President in Little Rock, and Evangeline Parker, Comcast Public Affairs Coordinator, today at the Little Rock Comcast office.

They did the dog and pony thing, but admitted that they made mistakes and were on the learning curve.

We questioned them about the computers — what were the specs, were they refurbished, were they really worth the $150, how long did it take to get them to the people? They did not know the answer to these questions.

We pushed them on the following issues:

1. Allowing people to receive the service if they owe a back bill and make a payment plan — they did say that people could get the service if they received amnesty for very old back bills;

2. Alternatives and clarification on the requirement to have a letter from the school saying that children were on the free lunch program. We urged them to accept applications without proof of enrollment. They did say that they were eliminating this requirement for Provision II schools. We told them to do more.

3. Setting goals and ways to measure success and to work with us in doing so. They said that they would come up with a measure.

4. Making the application process local in addition to the national number.

5. Advising us on the specifics of the type of computer sold for $150…net book versus laptop, refurbished versus new with warranty.

We requested to meet again in 45 days for answers to our demands.

Arkansas Welcomes New Members

Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc, organizer, welcomes Jeremiah Hackler as a new member. Jeremiah works diligently at the Conway Human Development Center….”I am here at the Development Center because I care about people.”

Pastor Toney Orr, organizer, welcomes Candyce Cooper, new member to Local 100 United Labor Unions!

Candyce and Jeremiah look forward to participating as new leaders in the March Meeting of membership to be held in Conway, Arkansas!

Arkansas Local 100 on the Move!

Irene Walker, new member; Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc, Local 100 Organizer; Angela Daily, member; Channon Horne, leader; Pastor Toney Orr, organizer—-celebrating solidarity with new members!

Sisters in Solidarity celebrate the new membership of Irene Walker!  Channon Horne, leader and Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc, organizer.

Pastor Toney Orr, organizer and new member, Virgina Green Welcome to the Union, Virginia.

“When I needed the union, you were there for me!”  Channon Horne, our new leader shares her excitement about Local 100, United Labor Unions and invites her co-workers to share their voice in solidarity!

Local 100 in Little Rock Protests Comcast

Members of Local 100 United Labor Unions joined Arkansas Community Organizations in demanding that Comcast follow through with their deal to provide low-cost computers and Internet to low income families.

Protest was held at Comcast offices located at 2714 S. Shackleford in Little Rock, Ark. As part of an agreement with the FCC over the acquisition of NBC Universal, Comcast is supposed to offer low cost Internet and low cost computers to families with children enrolled in the federal school lunch program in Little Rock public schools. Yet when parents inquire about the service, they are given the run around.

 The two organizations are working with groups in other cities to put pressure on the company and the FCC to implement the agreement. Computers and Internet access have become as essential to families as phone service. The Internet is now essential for searching for jobs and other opportunities. Many low-income families cannot afford a computer or Internet service. 
“When I received information from my school about the new Comcast program, I was excited,” said Little Rock resident Marthella Johnson. “I called the 800 number and was told I would receive an application in the mail. That was back in August. I still have not received the application.”  Video of action.

Angela Daily new Local 100 member

Angela Daily, new member of Local 100 United Labor Unions, celebrates  her joining with Organizer, Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc.  Beautiful Angela is the mother of five gorgeous “young ladies” and works at Pulaski County East.  In Angela’s evenings, she is attending school working on her Masters Degree.  She and her wonderful daughters perform community outreach as a family on a regular basis.  Angela  knows the importance of the “voice” she brings to the Local 100, United Labor Unions.  Welcome Angela!

Arkansas Introductions

November 07, 2011

Pastor Toney Orr, Organizer for Local 100 United Labor Unions in  Arkansas, introduces Feleccia Coleman to his fellow Arkansas  Organizer, Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc.  Toney and Feleccia previously  knew each other from his visits to Happy Home Baptist Church in  Jefferson, Arkansas.  Ms. Coleman is a wonderful union member that works at Pulaski East DHS offices.

A Great Win for Regina Price

Regina was first employed by the Conway Development Center in 1986 at the age of 19, that would make her a twenty-five year employee. In these 25 years she has been a model employee and was promoted until she was a supervisor in her unit. But that all changed in April of this year when she was accused of giving substandard care to a resident.

The Center management said they had three employees say that they had saw her mis-treating a resident.  During the Local 100 investigation they made a Arkansas Open Records Request for the Investigative Report and the Union found that when the witnesses were first questioned it didn’t seem like they had anything thing to say about Mrs. Price’s activities. Not until later when interviewed a second time (something that never happens) they recalled with great detail the problem Mrs. Price had and they all said exactly the same thing. Needless to say during he mediation it because apparent that the Conway development Center’s case had totally dissolved along with the creditability of their three star witnesses.

The result was wonderful. Regina was placed back to work with full back pay. Regina stated ,

“I’m ready for my next twenty years at Conway and everyday I’m going to tell my co-workers I would not have my job without the support and hard work of my union, Local 100. If you aren’t a member yet, you should join today, you never know when what happened to me could happen to you. We need to make the Union stronger by joining to protect our jobs and way of life.”

Hillary, Belvis and Bessie

Local 100 Arkansas State Organizer Bessie Fowler had a rare treat recently. She got to meet both Hillary Clinton and Dwayne Turner aka “Belvis the Black Elvis.” Check out the photo of Bessie of and the article from Reuters.

Disparities in Salaries

October 2017

Arkansas State Representatives Stephanie Flowers and David Raney met with SEIU Local 100 members about issues concerning employees of the Arkansas Department Of Correction and the Jefferson County Children and Families Services.

On October 10, 2007 Arkansas Department of Correction will pay employees for all hours worked. Officer Andrea Coleman, who works at Arkansas Department Of Correction Cummins Unit in Grady, AR, received a promotion. The department will also start Merit Pay Increases.

Representative Flowers sponsored a bill- “Requesting the House Interim Committee on Public Health, Welfare And Labor Study Regional Disparity In the Salaries Of Arkansas State Employees.” Our SEIU Local 100 members made the calls and the bill passed. Northwest Arkansas state employees make at least $5,000.00 more than those in Pulaski County.

Our SEIU Local 100 UAMS Head Start members are also getting a Merit Pay Increase/ Performance Evaluation System. State legislators approved this for 2007-2009.

SEIU Local 100 members met with UAMS Head Start Management about days off during the Christmas Recess and Spring Break. UAMS Head Start Management agree with SEIU Local 100 members.

The Arkansas Central Labor Council is sponsoring a Christmas Field Trip for King Head Start. SEIU local 100 is sponsoring a Christmas party for Pine Early Head Start. UFCW is sponsoring a Christmas party for Nathaniel East Head Start.

Local 100 Attendance High at Little Rock Labor Day Picnic

Local 100 members took part in the Central Arkansas Labor Council’s Labor Day celebration in Little Rock, AK.  Over 600 Union members from across Arkansas gathered to socialize, eat and talk to Democratic candidates for office. They discussed what they think are the most pressing issues to American labor — health insurance and wages.

“We’re working harder but getting less,” said Lindsay Brown, president of the Council. “It makes it harder to raise a family.”

Local 100’s delegation was led by organizer Bessie Fowler. Members attending were O’b Ware, Mary Ann Thomas, Johnnie Floyd, Coretha Floyd, Carla Williams, Diane Holiday, Tom Karson, Christine Sanders and Linda Lee. Many brought their families.

“We all had a great time,” said Fowler. “We were all together there as one, and our members got a chance to meet quite a few politicians.”

Edwards speaks on poverty in Delta

The following is a news story by Jill Zeman in the Biloxi Sun Herald about presidential candidate John Edwards’ visit to West Helena, AR:

LITTLE ROCK — Presidential candidates who visit the Mississippi Delta need to bring ideas, not just smiles for the cameras, members of a grassroots group representing the region said Thursday.

“Don’t come to our region and use us as a photo op,” said Lee Powell, executive director of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina visited Helena-West Helena this month to focus on poverty, but local leaders have been critical, saying Edwards should have spent more time in the region. The former senator spent less than 30 minutes there on his anti-poverty tour.

But Edwards supporters, including the director of Service Employees International Union Local 100, said the former senator was gracious and willing to listen.

“Alleviating poverty in America is the cause of John Edwards’ life, and the truth is that no one in this race has focused more on poverty, and no one will do more as president to address poverty than John Edwards,” said Colleen Murray, a spokeswoman for Edwards.

Powell said it was likely that the new president would have ties to the Delta, citing hopefuls Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, former Arkansas first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, whose southern Illinois constituency is part of the Delta.

Members of the caucus Thursday also criticized the Bush administration, saying that the Delta Regional Authority – which represents Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee – is getting short shrift in appropriations.

The caucus urged presidential hopefuls to be more mindful of the Delta’s needs.

“The (Bush) administration has failed the Delta, and at this point, we need to urge the Congress, and above all, the current presidential candidates to reverse the administration’s neglect,” Powell said.

The House has approved a $6 million budget for the organization; the Senate has passed a $12 million appropriation. The chambers will likely determine a final amount in a conference committee this fall.

Powell said the authority is expected to receive an additional $3 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., who represents eastern Arkansas, has criticized the agency for its administrative spending, but the congressman’s office has said Berry will support the Senate’s $12 million recommendation.

When the Delta Regional Authority was established in 2000 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, it received a $30 million budget. Powell said it’s disheartening to see funding dwindle as poverty, poor infrastructure and social problems continue to mount in the Mississippi River Delta.

“We need to focus our nation’s leaders on the fact that this is a national issue, and not just a regional issue,” Powell said. “And if a chain is only as strong as its weakest leak, then the economy of the United States is being seriously held back by the weak link in the Delta.”

Desha County Judge Mark McElroy said that although Delta residents face serious problems, the region itself is full of resources. What could help the Delta is the passage of a farm bill that provides a decent safety net for farmers, he said.

“Surely one thing won’t cure all the ills in the Delta. I’ve been here too long,” McElroy said. “I’ll tell you one thing that really is important in the Delta – we’ve got the richest farm ground in the world. And when the farmers do well, so does the Delta.”

But McElroy added: “Money’s not necessarily the answer to our woes in the Delta, but it sure beats whatever came in second.”

Edwards Impresses Local 100 Members in Arkansas

July 2007

Presidential candidate John Edwards speaks to SEIU Local 100 members in West Helena, Arkansas on July 16, 2007, about increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 and health insurance for all Americans. He also support paid sick leave and bringing the troops home from Iraq.

Fight for the Future Becomes Personal for Local 100 Organizer

Local 100 joined with the Arkansas State Electoral Coalition in an effort to register voters for the 2004 presidential election. Thanks to the cooperation of labor, community groups, and grassroots organizations, residents have a renewed sense of responsibility and hope that perhaps their vote truly makes a difference.

In Pulaski County Arkansas, voter registration has nearly doubled since 2000. Most newly registered voters are young — in the 18-25 age groups — and represent a potentially powerful force in the upcoming election. Many residents feel that this election is critical, and don’t want to miss the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Local 100 Organizer Bessie Fowler donated her spare time to contribute to the cause. In one month working a few hours on nights and weekends, she registered 500 people to vote.
“I really want to win this thing,” said Fowler.
Observing the enthusiasm that neighboring SEIU, ACORN and Project Vote workers and volunteers reflect has inspired other groups to join the voter registration effort. The race is on as both Democratic and Republican organizations compete to win the support of undecided voters.
SEIU aims to encourage voters to make the right choice for a President who supports working families. Employment is decreasing, jobs are being outsourced to foreign nations, and health care premiums have risen to the degree that many workers cannot afford insurance for their families. Children are not receiving the education they deserve.  Workers fundamental rights to a forty hour work week and overtime pay have come under fire.
The Bush Administration has lost over half a million American jobs in the last four years – making it the first time in 50 years that any president has seen American jobs suffer an net decrease. The national deficit now stands at $7,419,244,676,835.[1] the largest in history.
SEIU’s fight for the future is a nationwide campaign to elect a president who supports working families. Find out more about the issues at: http://www.fightforthefuture.org/issues/

Union Improves Human Development Center Conditions

September 2004

The Conway Human Development Center in Conway, Arkansas is a tough place to work. Administrators of state-run mental institutions often have difficulties providing workers with what they need to effectively perform their jobs, and CHDC is no exception.

The CHDC is the largest human development center in Arkansas. Services include Medical, Nursing, PT, OT, Speech Therapy, and Orthotics for the mentally retarded. Respite and outreach services are also provided. [1]

Without the proper working conditions, tools, funding and support that they need workers at CHDC face nearly insurmountable tasks. When workers unite, however, positive change can and does occur. With the help of SEIU Local 100 organizer Bessie Fowler, working conditions are improving.

CHDC Administrators have recently fixed a gate facing the interstate which had previously put patients in jeopardy of accidentally wandering into traffic. Workers have earned more respect from their employers, and job satisfaction is on the rise.

[1] Retrieved from http://www.state.ar.us/dhs/ddds/ddsinsti.html September 1, 2004.

Meeting with Senator Lincoln in Arkansas

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August 2003

Arkansas Local 100 members— concerned about President Bush’s proposals to gut Head Start and to move a Medicare prescription drug plan which will be better for the pharmacutical industry than seniors—packed into the Local 100 board room to meet with Senator Blanche Lincoln on Saturday, August 2nd, 2003.

HR 2210, which was passed by the US House of Representatives, fails to provide adequate funding for the Head Start program. It would enable eight cash strapped states to dismantle Head Start and eliminate many of the social, health, nutritional, and educational services that have helped disadvantaged children prepare for school.

Local 100 member and Head Start worker Helen Brown said “Although we get some assistance for college-which we need to earn the degree we’re required to have to continue to work at Head Start, we end up having to pay hundreds of dollars.  ” We care about the children- and work hard to get them ready for school. We need more money in the program- not less.”

Senator Lincoln agreed. “The Bush plan to block grant the Head Start program will end up reducing services to children.” She committed to “doing all I can to ensure that the Bush plan to gut Head Start-which has be passed by the House- does not get passed by the US Senate.”

Local 100 leader Hattie Daniels informed the Senator that SEIU has 11,000 Head Start members across the country, and let her know that we stood ready to help.  Senator Lincoln asked that Head Start workers continue to tell her their stories.

Local 100 leader Redonia Harshaw laid out our concerns around the President’s Medicare Prescription Drug plan.  She said, “The current House and Senate Medicare drug bills fail to meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities.”  Our concerns include:

* Seniors will be expected to pay too much in out of pocket costs for too little coverage.
*Medicare beneficiaries will be at the mercy of insurance companies and HMOs, who will decide what drugs are made available and how much they will cost.
*An estimated 4.4Million retirees who currently have employer provided prescription drug coverage stand to lose it.
*The plan does absolutely nothing to control skyrocketing drug costs, and even goes so far as to forbid Medicare from negotiating for lower prices for seniors.
*The plan jeopardizes the future of Medicare by encouraging privatization of the program and by raising costs from some beneficiaries through means testing.

Redonia asked the Senator “why you voted for the bad Republican bill in the Senate?”  Lincoln responded that “I wanted to see some movement on this issue.”

When asked whether she would oppose any Medicare prescription drug plan that does not solve this problem when Congress reconciles the House and Senate Bills, she suggested we speak to Congressman Berry, who will be on the committee that will be doing that work. She indicated that she shared our concerns.

According to Hattie Daniels, “We’ve met with Congressman Berry, and he is very supportive of our position.  We hope Senator Lincoln will oppose any Medicare prescription drug plan that does not solve the problem we discussed with her.”

A petition opposing the Bush Medicare Prescription Drug plan will be available at the Labor Day picnic at Lake Maumelle from 10 am-2pm on Monday, September 1st. We’ll FAX copies to all members of the Arkansas delegation.

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