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GAO finds hazardous conditions in poultry, meatpacking continue

poultry workers.jpg

The General Accounting Office (GAO) publicly released a report yesterday on workplace health and safety conditions in the poultry industry.  While noting a decline in injury and illness rates from 2004 to 2013, the report highlights the problem of underreporting and inadequate data collection.  The GAO report includes 3 recommendations for Executive Action:

Recommendation: To strengthen DOL’s efforts to ensure employers protect the safety and health of workers at meat and poultry plants, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, working together with the Commissioner of Labor Statistics as appropriate, to develop and implement a cost-effective method for gathering more complete data on musculoskeletal disorders.
Agency Affected: Department of Labor

Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers’ injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health and the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to study how they could regularly gather data on injury and illness rates among sanitation workers in the meat and poultry industry.

Agency Affected: Department of Labor

Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers’ injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct a study of the injuries and illnesses these workers experience, including their causes and how they are reported. Given the challenges to gaining access to this population, NIOSH may want to coordinate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop ways to initiate this study.

Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

The report follows a recent release from Oxfam America focusing on the poultry industry’s denial of bathroom breaks to workers.

Uncategorized

HB2, the tourism industry, and the “more progressive state of South Carolina”

While Gov. Pat McCrory continues to attack opponents of HB2 and blame the media for how it is covering the damage caused by his anti-LGBT law, leaders in the tourism industry in North Carolina have a clear message for McCrory and the General Assembly—repeal the law that is hurting their businesses.

The Lumina News reports that Mary Baggett, owner of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach, didn’t mince any words at a recent meeting of the N.C. Tourism & Travel Coalition in Wilmington.

At an industry event Monday, Mary Baggett, owner of Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner Beach Resort, said the state’s legislature needed to take immediate action to repeal the bill and that the NC State Tourism Coalition should be lobbying that message to state’s General Assembly that is currently in session.

“We fought hard to become a destination state. Now it’s all undone,” Baggett said. “I hope your organization comes forth to rally us.”

Baggett also shared a recent story about an interaction with a potential tourist that includes a line that many North Carolinians never thought they would hear.

Baggett described an email she received from a family from Massachusetts traveling through the region who had planned a stay at the Blockade Runner. The family will be staying in the “more progressive state of South Carolina”, said Baggett referencing the email cancelling the four-night booking, because they would “rather go to a state that’s not judgmental” of people’s lifestyles.

The more progressive state of South Carolina? It is hard to believe where McCrory and his pals in the General Assembly have taken us.

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Major education nonprofit, North Carolina New Schools, to close, WRAL reports

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bSurprising news from WRAL today about a theoretically well-funded education nonprofit that is shutting its doors. 

The news station reports that North Carolina New Schools, a group that helps to train teachers and administrators across the state, will be closing, although no reason was provided.

From WRAL:

A spokeswoman for the group said it is a “difficult day” and that more information would be released this afternoon after conversations with staff.

On Thursday morning, NC New Schools’ President Tony Habit sent an email announcing that he resigned Wednesday after nearly 13 years as the organization’s founding president. WRAL News reached out to Habit, as well as other employees with the organization, but they have not responded.

NC New Schools is based in Research Triangle Park and has received millions of dollars in donations and federal grants since it began in 2003, including nearly $26 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a $20 million grant in 2014 and a $15 million grant in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Education.

Policy Watch has reached out to some supporters of the program, which is generally well thought of in the state. We’ll let you know when we learn more.

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Virtual charter leaders dispute state’s attendance, testing data

virt-chartLeaders with North Carolina’s pilot virtual charter schools are disputing a report presented Wednesday to the N.C. State Board of Education that marked soaring dropout numbers and lower-than-expecting testing in the new programs.

Wednesday’s report counted withdrawal rates at both N.C. Connections Academy and N.C. Virtual Academy at about 26 percent, an increase on the programs’ already troubled numbers we reported in January.

This week’s report also includes data that would seem to show the schools are not meeting state accountability standards either, at least as far as third-grade testing is concerned.

Tammy Howard, director of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) accountability division, reported both schools have a target this year of administering the Beginning of Grade 3 test to 95 percent of their students.

But Howard said N.C. Connections Academy tested just 105 of 140 students, about 75 percent, and N.C. Virtual Academy tested 134 of 147 students, or about 91 percent.

Both schools moved quickly to dispute the data, blaming incomplete calculations by the state, discrepancies between the school and the state’s enrollment records, and rapid fluctuations in enrollment for the problems.

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NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

NCGA reminded that many “business climate” rankings paint an overly rosy picture

Last Thursday, members of the Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee saw evidence that many “business climate” rankings overstate how well North Carolina is actually doing.Abernathy Slide - Rankings and Econ Performance

Respected economic expert Ted Abernathy, formerly the Executive Director of the Southern Growth Policies board and now with Economic Leadership, an economic development and analysis consultancy, briefed the committee on a range of economic dynamics from growing wage gaps between urban and rural North Carolina to factors that influence our competitiveness on the global market.

Abernathy also examined how North Carolina’s economic performance compared with how we fared in several business interest group and media publications. This analysis shows that North Carolina’s economic performance has fallen short of its stature in many of the rankings. As can be seen in the graph, North Carolina is in the top 20% in performance (“Statistical Ranking”), but is a top 5 state in the “Best States” rankings. Our economy is doing better than many states, but not nearly as well as many state rankings would imply. Read more