Commentary

Court order once again highlights North Carolina’s invisible Labor Commissioner

Cherie Berry 2It simply shouldn’t take a four-year herculean effort by an extraordinarily dedicated lawyer in order for a handful of average workers to get paid an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Unfortunately, as this story by reporter Mandy Locke in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear, it does take such an effort these days in North Carolina where the state’s absurdly low-energy Labor/Elevator Commissioner Cherie Berry continues muddle along, doing as little as possible to protect the workers of our state.

As Locke reports:

“Every few months for nearly four years, Katharine Woomer-Deters had lugged a box full of records three blocks from her office to the Wake County courthouse. Inside it: all the proof and power she should have needed to force a Raleigh contractor to pay wages he owed to seven workers for labor in 2010.

Woomer-Deters and her employer, the N.C. Justice Center, have devoted tens of thousands of dollars worth of time and energy trying to get Robert Charleton Miller, owner of Raleigh construction company NC Contracting Inc., to pay the $14,000 he owed.

Finally, on Thursday, Woomer-Deters got what she needed: a payment from Miller. He signed an agreement to pay monthly until his debt is settled. He made his first installment Thursday.

It took the threat of jail and a stern judge to push Miller toward the settlement.”

And, of course, this latest development is just the latest in a scandalously long trail of cases in which employers across North Carolina have been failing to pay workers the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. As Locke reported last fall in her five-part “Contact to Cheat” investigation: “North Carolina is losing $467 million in annual tax revenue from the practice within the construction industry alone.”

Unfortunately, state Labor Commissioner Berry — the constitutional officer charged with protecting the workers of our state from such predations — continues to snooze away through her fourth full term in office, out of sight and out of mind. There’s no word yet on whether Berry intends to seek a fifth term in 2016, but if her somnambulant performance in office over the past decade and a half is any indication, she’ll probably mail in her decision.

3 Comments


  1. Mayor McCheese

    January 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Hey Mr. Schofield, as a conservative I disagree with you on a lot of stuff, and your rhetorical style occasionally gets on my nerves. But let my take this opportunity to thank you for your eloquent opposition to “incentives.” Corporate welfare is indeed disgusting. Keep defying the consensus, my friend! The taxpayers deserve a voice. And the source of my moniker deserves a critic. Big Pat-and-fries-with-that’s latest enthusiasm (JDIGs) is probably his silliest yet.

  2. LayintheSmakDown

    January 9, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    She is not invisible, her photo is in just about every elevator I ride in.

  3. george

    January 9, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    The N&O’s Under the Dome column reported recently that she is running for a fifth term in 2016.

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