News

Adams, Butterfield, Price on board as U.S. House prepares to vote on $15 minimum wage

The U.S. House is poised to pass landmark legislation that would hike the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and could substantially increase pay for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

But the effort faces steep hurdles in the Senate, including likely opposition from North Carolina Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, who have opposed previous efforts to raise the minimum wage.

House Democrats are planning to hold a floor vote on the Raise the Wage Act in July, according to Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “Democrats ran on raising wages for American workers, and this remains a top priority for us,” Saez said.

The bill, whose lead sponsor is House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), would boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which was approved by Congress in 2007 and went into effect in 2009.

Rep. Alma Adams

The legislation cleared Scott’s committee in March and is expected to easily pass the full House. North Carolina Democrats Alma Adams, G. K. Butterfield and David Price are among the bill’s 205 cosponsors.

Adams, who is a member of the Education and Labor Committee and chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, issued a statement after the committee approved the measure back in March in which she lauded the legislation:

“Today is a day that was a long time in coming – I am proud that the Committee on Education and Labor approved a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. During 20 1/2 years in the North Carolina General Assembly, I fought for our state’s minimum wage to increase to $6.15. Never would I have thought that 13 years later, Congress would have to act to raise the minimum wage from $7.25. By passing the Raise the Wage Act, we are sending the message that if you work a full-time job, you should be entitled to the dignity of a fair wage. I look forward to seeing this landmark legislation come to the floor and be approved by the full House of Representatives.”

Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender, has introduced the Senate version of the House minimum wage bill.

“Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’ But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said in a statement.

“It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour.”

He’s not alone in the field of Democratic presidential contenders. Nearly all of those vying for the party’s 2020 nomination have endorsed the $15 minimum wage.

Polling earlier this year suggested that most registered voters would support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

If Congress ultimately boosts the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than 1.6 million North Carolinians could directly benefit. The Workers Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of NC Policy Watch) reported in March that: Read more

Commentary

Editorial: General Assembly should ditch its latest anti-immigrant scheme

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the lead editorial featured in the Charlotte Observer (“Don’t force NC sheriffs to bow to ICE”). In it the Observer rightfully derides the latest version of legislation that would seek to force North Carolina sheriffs to comply with detainer requests issued by Trump’s immigration officials.

A bill that would force N.C. sheriffs to more fully cooperate with federal immigration officials not only is potentially harmful to the sheriffs and the communities they serve; it’s based on a faulty premise.

House Bill 370 would compel local law enforcement agencies to honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally. Some N.C. sheriffs, including those in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, have ignored or vowed to ignore these “detainer” requests from ICE, which can keep suspects in jail up to 48 hours beyond their release date….

The bill also could harm North Carolina’s cities and towns, particularly immigrant communities whose members already are hesitant to call the sheriff or police when they need help. Said Buncombe County sheriff Quentin Miller in a statement Friday: “If ICE comes into our community and creates division and mistrust when we need cooperation and mutual understanding between our immigrant and minority communities and local law enforcement, then we are all worse off for it.”

In response to the argument that sheriffs are somehow culpable for releasing people who could be a danger to the community, the editorial puts it this way:

Local magistrates, along with the Superior Court and District Court judges who hire and supervise them, can and should develop or revisit pre-trial release guidelines that give magistrates and judges discretion over if and how someone is released from jail. Those guidelines could involve notifying ICE officials in situations that might be particularly hazardous to communities and individuals.

Instead, NC Republicans are intent on a bill that interferes in how sheriffs try to navigate the delicate landscape of federal immigration laws, and ICE is misleading North Carolinians about its necessity.

The editorial might have added (as former Guilford County Republican sheriff B.J. Barnes pointed out the other day) that there’s also a little matter of the Constitution when it comes to holding people based on mere requests from ICE:

“What I am and what the attorneys are is VERY STRONG on the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. A few of you in prior post have said the Constitution does not apply to those here illegally, that is not the case. It is applicable to everyone on American soil, no matter how they got here.

Now the legislation proposed is the same as the rulings put out by ICE that says the Sheriffs office who holds prisoners longer than law allows without proper judicial paperwork, ie warrant will be immune from civil liability meaning you the taxpayer gets sued. It has already happened across the country and others have lost millions. They, being legislators or ICE, cannot protect a county from a lawsuit if they break the law.”

Lawmakers need to ditch this dangerous and potentially unconstitutional scheme.
Commentary

Editorial decries silence from Tillis, Burr, NC reps as Trump hits new low

Be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com (“Presidential character, honesty matter. Congress needs to account for Trump”), which calls out Donald Trump once again for his serial dishonesty and immorality and the embarrassingly craven behavior of North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation in enabling Trump, and even egging him on.

The latest chapter in this tragic saga emerged yesterday when Trump told ABC News that he would be open to receiving information provided by a foreign government on a political opponent. As Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times explains this morning:

In a new interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, parts of which were released on Wednesday evening, Donald Trump announced his willingness to betray and subvert American democracy, again. Asked what he would do if he were offered foreign dirt on an opponent in 2020, he said he’d take it, and pooh-poohed the idea of calling federal law enforcement.

“Oh, let me call the F.B.I.,” he said derisively. “Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.”

That Trump has no loyalty to his country, its institutions and the integrity of its elections is not surprising. That he feels no need to fake it is alarming. With the end of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, House Democrats’ craven fear of launching an impeachment inquiry, and the abject capitulation of Republicans to Trumpian authoritarianism, the president is reveling in his own impunity.

The CBC editorial offered this on-the-money take:

It is painful to watch and listen to President Donald Trump. There seems to be no end to the deception, disrespect, arrogance, meanness and plain old lying.

He even says it is OK to take information about his political opponents from foreign governments and not bother to alert the FBI.

This has nothing to do with politics or policies. It is all about character and the corruption of core values.

To see sobering confirmation that Trump’s latest treachery seemed not to bother Senator Thom Tillis, check out the news that emerged late yesterday after Tillis was asked what he would do if he received dirt on his opponent from a foreign government. According to multiple news outlets (click here and here), Tillis seemed to indicate that while he would contact the FBI, he would also be open to using the information.

Again, the CBC editorial:

North Carolina voters didn’t elect senators who would tolerate lying – especially on the scale exhibited by Trump. Yet Thom Tillis and Richard Burr haven’t uttered a peep of concern. They owe their constituents an explanation….

What does Donald Trump have to do – how extreme does it have to get – before Congress does its job. That job is to stand up to lying, demand the president tell the truth and act within the Constitution.

Even in Donald Trump’s Washington character must count. Demanding that a president is honest and his comportment match the high station of the office isn’t liberal or conservative. It’s the duty of Congress.

Honesty and integrity must matter.

Commentary

The video Phil Berger needs to watch

If there is a single person who stands in the way of providing life-affirming health insurance to a half-million uninsured human beings and, quite literally, saving the lives of thousands of North Carolinians (particularly those caught up in the opioid crisis) it’s Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Berger is a husband and father and grandfather and it just seem impossible to believe that he could view the testimony of the two men in the video below that was recently shared by the good people at NC Child — two men who look and sound an awful lot like him — and adhere to his heartless stance.

C’mon Senator Berger — take a chance, open your heart and let your inner humanity come to the surface. It won’t hurt.

News, Trump Administration

Rev. Barber takes moral movement to the White House

In case you missed it yesterday, North Carolina’s Rev. William Barber brought the moral movement that he helped make famous via protests at the General Assembly to the nation’s capital yesterday. Adrienne Masha Varkiani of Think Progress reports:

Rev. Dr. William Barber leads activists into Lafayette Park, after Secret Service had previously closed it off. Activists had gathered for Repairers of the Breach’s “Moral Witness Wednesday,” June 12, 2019, Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: ThinkProgress/Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani)

Secret Service interferes with ‘Moral Witness Wednesday’ protest in front of White House

“Love is radical, truth is radical, justice is radical.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 300 religious leaders and activists protested outside the White House on Wednesday to bring attention to administration policies they say are immoral. The U.S. Secret Service repeatedly interfered with the protest, first closing off Lafayette Square and then gating off access to the front of the White House an hour later.

The protest, called “Moral Witness Wednesday,” was led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a Protestant minister, social justice advocate, and president of Repairers of the Breach, a non-profit organization that “seeks to build a moral agenda… to redeem the heart and soul of our country.” Barber was joined by a 17 other religious leaders of different faiths, as well as activists of different religions.

Activists were attempting to deliver a petition signed by more than 5,000 people calling on the White House to abide by the 14th Amendment, stop mandating a census question on immigration status, end its attack on the Affordable Care Act, focus on providing clean air and water, create a humane immigration policy, and end child detention.

The day began at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Barber and Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner and Rev. Rob Stevens, who also work with Repairers of the Breach, welcomed activists and stressed the covenant of nonviolence. The church served as the downtown headquarters for the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington in the spring of 1968, making it a symbolic place for Barber, who is leading a new Poor People’s Campaign, to gather activists.

Tanner told ThinkProgress that this Moral Witness Wednesday coincides with holy days in several religions, including Eid al-Fitr in Islam, Shavuot in Judasm, and Pentecost in Christianity. “We feel it’s our call during one of the times of injustice to go to one of the seats of injustice,” she added, referring to the White House.

Barber also told activists that this event follows several religious leaders’ vision to have a Jewish seder in a mosque, with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian activists all speaking.

“This president, his administration, and those upholding him in Congress … are extremist leaders, driven by the idols of racism, greed, and power,” said Barber, adding that Trump and his ilk “have broken the two covenants — the deepest values of our religious traditions and the moral commitments of our Constitution.” Read more