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Amelia “Melissa” Bravo of Raleigh fights for paid family leave.

A bevy of reports released this week measure aspects of states’ “family friendly” policies show North Carolina has a lot of room for improvement to accommodate the new reality that most working adults are also being squeezed (or hugged) by caregiving responsibilities for their elders, their children, or both.

The reports come ahead of the White House Summit on Working Families scheduled for Monday, June 23. Almost 30 women from North Carolina will be attending the summit, including a large delegation from Women AdvaNCe and a few from the North Carolina Families Care coalition.

The summit and reports draw much-needed attention to the fact that most adults with children work now, yet most of us still find work-life balance a constant struggle that often forces folks to choose between getting paid and taking care of an ill loved on.

First, The National Partnership for Women and Families report gave North Carolina a “D” for having few protections for working parents beyond federal laws like the Family Medical Leave Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Those laws have their limitations because they don’t apply to all employers and so leave out millions of workers. They also don’t provide any paid leave, which means many workers, particularly low-income workers—find that they can’t afford to take leave after having a baby, for example.

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Today fast food workers from around the world—including folks throughout North Carolina – are rallying for a decent raise (most workers In NC make around the minimum wage of $7.25/hour) and the right to collectively bargain.Greenville NC

And now that the state legislature has reconvened, a handful of state representatives introduced House Joint Resolution 1068 calling for a raise to the minimum wage today as well.

The legislation has been shepherded to the Commerce and Job Development Committee, and we’ll see what happens next. Specifically, let’s see what Rep. Thom Tillis, the speaker of the house and Republican U.S.-Senate candidate, will do about it.

Tillis had previously called the minimum wage an “artificial threshold” and a bid to increase it a “dangerous idea.”

But last week on MSNBC he punted –basically to himself — by saying the rate should be set at the state level.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly asked him if he as state Speaker of the House would be in favor of raising the minimum wage in North Carolina, and Tillis couldn’t bring himself to answer that question.

Tillis probably knows that  73 percent of people believe it’s time to raise the wage. Let’s see what he’ll do about it.

Yesterday I read about the new #BrandNCProject that the Department of Commerce had launched with UNC’s business school. News of the effort immediately drew mockery from some those who don’t like the direction the state is going in in comments sections of news articles and on Twitter.

The survey asks us what words best describe our enduring core values we hold as North Carolinians. The examples include kindness, diversity, loyalty, friendliness, compassion and courage.survey screen shot

“Enduring core values are basic fundamental principles that guide our individual behavior and both determine and reflect how we think and act toward others,” the survey’s instructions state.

I earnestly tried to answer this survey as a North Carolinian who cares deeply about my state’s future and wants its brand stand out, and as someone who wanted to possibly shape this project’s development.

I tried, but I couldn’t.  That’s because I believe holding values and practicing values are two different things. Building, sustaining and practicing “enduring core values” is hard work that is never completed. It takes investment and examination.

Living a principled life is a journey, maybe even a battle. It’s about the sum of our actions.

So maybe we should step back and reflect on some different questions: How are we as North Carolinians living up to our values?  Are we on the right path to being the friendly, diverse, compassionate, fair, creative place we aspire to be? If not, how do we get there?

However important a brand might be –and I don’t dispute it is— it just feels like our leaders are again putting appearances first. And that is not an enduring core value I want for my state.

Jim Lind is a decorated US Air Force vet and a software development professional who’s done it all over a 39-year career: managing and developing for commercial industries, for the military, for education systems, for space systems, you name it.

He’s also been unemployed since early 2009 when the Great Recession resulted in major layoffs at his and so many other workplaces. When Jim finally found work for a contractor for Amtrak, the sequester cut that short just 10 weeks into the job.WP_20140220_005-edit-600-web

Jim was one of eight unemployed professionals who met with U.S. Rep. David Price and Wake Tech President Stephen Scott last week to explain the human toll exacted by North Carolina’s reckless changes to its unemployment insurance program, detailed by a recent Budget and Tax Center report on the issue. They also spoke about how important the programs at the community college have been for them.

“The reason I am here is to talk about who the unemployed are. Who are we really. Myths are not helpful for becoming re-employed,” he said.

Jim explained that the federal extensions of unemployment at a higher weekly rate than is available now were a life saver for him, providing the most basic assistance to eat and pay some bills.

“I had to count slices of bread, eggs in the fridge, measure things in ounces, plan when to wash my clothes in order to be able to pay the rent where I was living,” he said. Plus, even looking for work in today’s world requires expensive tools like a cell phone, an Internet connection and computer, a car. “I don’t know how cutting people off…is helpful for people finding work.” Read More

“Harvest of Dignity,” a 30-minute documentary that chronicles the lives of modern farm workers in North Carolina, won a regional Emmy over the weekend in the topical documentary category.

The film updates Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 report, “Harvest of Shame”, and shows that unfortunately, not much has changed about how our country treats the people who work so hard to deliver the bounty of our farms to our grocery stores and our tables.

Donna Campbell of Minnow Media in Carrboro, worked closely with the Farmworker Advocacy Network to make the film. Upon accepting the award in Nashville Saturday, Campbell said she did so on behalf of North Carolina’s farm workers.

“Those of us who haven’t spent 16 hours in a sweet potato field really have no idea what hard work is,” she said (you can watch the awards speech around 01:14 of the Emmy broadcast.

At least 150,000 farm workers and their families are in North Carolina for each growing season, according to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute.  often making less than $11,000 a year. Wage and safety violations are unfortunately all too common, with workers still facing difficulties like pesticide exposure, unacceptable living conditions and rampant wage theft.

The thought-provoking movie is worth watching with a book club or group of friends or neighbors, sure to raise awareness and generate discussion. Watch the movie and download discussion materials here: http://pic.tv/harvest/.