Summary of Arkansas Paycheck Problem and How Local 100 Won for Our Members
When Arkansas became the first state in the country with a new computer system called AAISIS, thousands of state employees and Personal Care Aides didn't get paid on payday. Thousands of direct deposits were done late. Many were for the wrong amounts. Personal Care Aides who'd signed up for direct deposit had their checks mailed instead. Paper paychecks often took over a week to arrive in the mail. Most workers didn't get pay stubs- so had no way of knowing what deductions were made, what taxes they'd paid, or how much sick and annual leave they'd accrued.
Employees who had agreements with creditors to pay bills through debits from their accounts had checks bounce. Others had phones, gas, and lights shut off because they got their checks to late to pay the bill.
Local 100 SEIU members began moving petitions with the following demands the Monday after the paycheck fiasco began
1. Pay employees on pay day. This means having direct deposits done in time to be posted on payday, and pay checks in people's hands on payday.
2. Pay all fees charged to employees as a result of receiving pay later than payday. This includes bounced check fees, late fees, shutoffs and other penalties as a result of late payments.
3. Provide all employees and state contract workers with a regular written record of their pay each payday. This should include all the information that appeared on pay stubs under the old system.
4. Agree to write letters to banks and utility companies asking them to freeze late charges and shut offs for all state employees and contract workers who did not receive their pay on payday.
Benton Services Center members collected 160 signatures on the petition, and succeeded in getting management to provide each worker with a pay stub starting the second pay period with the new system.
At our request, Representative Joyce Elliot got a meeting with our members and Ted Thomas, the Governor's Budget Director.
Local 100 SEIU leaders Hattie Daniels, Redonia Harshaw and Rosetta Gore-Wilkins, joined by 20 other members and Representative Elliot, met with Thomas in a room at the state capital. Thomas let us know that the state was working on getting everyone their late checks, and indicated that the other issues were "less important." Our members made it clear that the other issues were just as important.
--Jean Marrow from Benton Services Center said that the state should reimburse people for late fees charged as a result of pay day being delayed.
--Arkansas State Hospital nurses Joy Barrow, Frank Carrico, and Allie Williams made it clear that they needed pay stubs to be sure their checks are accurate, have a record of sick and annual leave, and when the apply for loans. They said that they couldn't log on at work to get this information as they'd been told to do because they often don't have time, computers aren't always available, and it wasn't always possible to log on. They said they worried about having to leave personal information out on the computer screen when called away to respond to emergencies.
--ASH Mental Health Worker Beverly Ador told Thomas that, though she'd gone through all possible channels, she'd been unable to download her payroll information because her code number wouldn't work.
--Redonia Harshaw said that "A young athlete died yesterday because it was so hot. People need electricity to cool off. We don't want state employees getting sick- or dying from the heat. The Governor needs to take give us immediate relief."
We turned in Local 100 surveys completed by state employees with specific problems with AAISIS and asked that the Governor help these people. The meeting ended with us giving Mr. Thomas a letter for the Governor, which laid out our concerns and asked for a response by the following Friday.
The following Monday, a subcommittee of the House Health, Welfare and Labor Committee met to discuss the problems with AAISIS. Beverly Alor testified about her problem getting on line. Mary Ann Thomas, a Personal Care Aide from Little Rock, talked about how PCAs across the state were getting checks in the mail as much as 10 days past pay day. Arkansas State Director Leslie Haber answered questions on these issues. Legislators announced support for compensating state employee's for lost money. We distributed copies of the letter to the Governor.
We announced a rally on the issue, and heard through the Associate Press reporter that the Governor was willing to meet with us- before Saturday- about the problem. The Governor agreed to meet with three of us- so Hattie Daniels, Redonia Harshaw and Leslie Haber attended the 730 am meeting. Kay Durnett from ASEA was also there.
The Governor said he was there to respond to our letter, and responded to each section as follows
1. He announced that the day before he'd sent out a letter, as we requested, to banks and utility companies which stated "If late fees and overdraft charges are directly related to the delay in state checks, I'm asking you to give every consideration to waiving them."
2. He gave us the name of the Public Service Commission liason on his staff , suggesting that we contact him if people who were shut off as a result of the paycheck problems had trouble getting reconnected and fees waived.
3. He indicated that they were "taking a look at how to deal with late fees" which were caused as a direct result of the state's late payments.
4. He said payday was 2 pm on Fridays. Hattie made it clear that state employees had gotten memos indicating that it was Friday morning. We let him know that we were concerned that some banks weren't posting these deposits until the next business day- for many banks- Monday.
5. We talked about the problem that people who have chosen to be paid by check have had getting it on time. His staff said that because the lists were "batched" they didn't believe the state could separate out the workers getting paid by check. The Governor said "we have no control over the US Mail." We asked that they look into whether Personal Care Aides- who weren' t likely to be in the same batched list, because they are contract workers, could have their checks delivered to the Health Department units- rather than mailed. The Governor directed his staff to look into this.
6. The Governor announced that, at some point, he wanted to move toward having all state employees paid via direct deposit. Redonia made it clear that there were two major problems with this.
--First, that people weren't getting pay stubs. He said he was open to suggestions. We said that the people who do payroll should do as they are already doing at UAMS and Benton Services Center, and download the pay stub information for each employee, put it in an envelope, and distribute them on payday
--Second, that many lower income people couldn't afford bank accounts. Huckabee said that this was "a legitimate concern", and that "we have leverage with most banks, since the state has so much money in many of them." He said he thought they could get free accounts for those who needed them for purposes of being paid via direct deposit.
7. He agreed that people should be paid on payday.
8. He agreed to come on KABF, during the Labor Council's show, to talk about the issue.
Two days after our meeting, around 40 Local 100 members and allies- including State Senator John Fitch, Representatives Jo Carson and Mike Hathorne, held a news conference at the capitol. Hattie and Redonia laid out what had happened in the meeting with the Governor. They announced that we were inviting all state employees who had lost money as a result of this mess to contact Local 100 so we could help them get their money back, and file complaints with the Claims Commission.
Four days after the meeting with Huckabee, we got the first indication that he was doing something- Personal Care Aides who had not chosen to use direct deposit were told to pick up their checks at the Health Units. For most, this was the first time they'd been paid on pay day in a month.
State employees continue to pull together to solve problems created by AAISIS. If you are owed money, call us so we can help. If you didn't get your bonus because they changed the dates for payment when they moved to this system, call Local 100 SEIU. If you still aren't getting pay stubs, call us and we'll send you a petition so you can gather support at work. If workers across the state don't start getting accurate records each pay day shortly, we're planning to bring all those who are concerned together for a rally to demand action!
Call Local 100 SEIU at (501) 376-0255 or 1-800-880-0480 for help, petitions, or information on what you can do to join others who've pulled together to press for fair pay, a living wage, and better working conditions.