The 2013 tax plan continues to rear its ugly head. The final budget deal released late last night is yet another reminder that the state cannot afford cost of the tax plan that primarily benefits the wealthy and profitable corporations.  If the state could afford those deep revenue cuts, budget writers would not be relying on more federal dollars and lottery revenues to make their budget balanced nor including another round of harmful budget cuts and policy changes to early childhood education, public schools, higher education, and social programs. But, those are the conditions North Carolinians will be facing over the next year as we enter year six of the official economic recovery.

While the budget delivered on its promise to provide an average 7 percent teacher pay raise, that boost in much-needed pay came at the expense of dollars needed to pay for other state priorities—even within the public education budget for programs that serve at-risk students, for example. And unfortunately, it’s just a snapshot of what we should expect to see in future years. Meanwhile, other states are moving full steam ahead and replacing the most damaging cuts made during the aftermath of the recession.

The cost of North Carolina’s personal income tax cuts will be much higher than previously expected, at least $200 million more each year. Read More

Another new jobs report, the same old story for North Carolina’s metro areas–too many of the state’s urban centers are struggling to create jobs and meaningfully create opportunities for the unemployed. Some of the low-lights from yesterday’s June report on local area unemployment include:

  • 13 out of 14 metros saw their labor forces decline since June 2013, suggesting that too many workers are unable to find work and continue to drop out of the workforce.
  • 8 out of 14 metros saw their unemployment rates drop because the majority of unemployed workers moved out of the labor force rather into jobs. That means that the unemployment rate isn’t going down because things are getting better for workers, but rather because things are getting worse.
  • 3 metros (Fayetteville, Hickory, and Jacksonville) have fewer people going to work in June 2014 than they did last year.
  • Only 4 metros (Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Wilmington) have created enough jobs to fully replace the jobs lost during the Great Recession. After five years, 10 metros have yet to fully recover from the recession.
  • For 10 metros, it will take more than a year to fully replace those lost jobs, if they create jobs at the current pace.
  • One metro, Hickory-Lenoir, will take almost a half century to fully return to pre-recession employment levels if they maintain their current pace of job creation.

All told, this is a dismal jobs reports for our state’s metro areas, far removed from recent claims about the state’s supposed economic renaissance.

Support for Paid family leave advanced in the U.S. Senate yesterday, as lawmakers heard testimony on its benefits in a key Children and Families Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.

During the hearing—which was requested by U.S. Senator Kay Hagan—North Carolina business owners, advocates, and representatives of working families made the case for why paid family medical leave policies benefit both employees and businesses. Such programs allow workers to recover from a serious illness or care for a sick loved one or new child without risking their job or the income they need. The hearing renewed a call for a universal family and medical leave insurance program that doesn’t shoulder all the burden of cost on employers.

Currently the Family and Medical Leave Act is the only federal law designed to help working people succeed both as providers and caregivers. It leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. This means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between providing care or having the income they need to cover basic expenses.

In North Carolina, 77 percent of mothers with children under 18 work, and 44 percent of workers have no access to paid sick days, let alone paid family medical leave. Low-income workers have it even worse off and are often given no flexibility in their work schedules at all.

Two North Carolinians testified at the hearing. Jeannine Sato is a resident of Durham, NC and member of NC MomsRising. Sato’s previous employer denied her extended leave after the birth of her first child. She said:

We are human – to pretend that people don’t get sick and that they don’t give birth just doesn’t make sense….Families should have the opportunity to care for their loved ones without the risk of losing their jobs or falling into poverty…. America needs to step up and join the rest of the industrialized world in offering paid family leave in order to be competitive and humane.

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Even as House and Senate leaders tout a seven percent pay raise for teachers, the North Carolina Association of Educators is out with a top ten list of why the final 2014-15 budget lawmakers will vote this week on is bad for education. The NCAE notes the budget compromise takes away longevity pay, funds vouchers, and covers other needed resources with one time, non-recurring funds:

Here’s the NCAE’s complete list:

Top 10 Reasons the 2014-15 Budget is Bad

  1.     The budget is built on an ill-conceived tax cut plan for the wealthy and for-profit corporations and is unsustainable.ncae
  2.     The budget is an unfulfilled promise for public education and only a small down payment on the State’s IOU to students, public education and educators.
  3.     The budget continues to disrespect educators who want to earn a master’s or other degree.
  4.     The budget does not provide a 7 percent raise, as it takes away longevity and folds it into the salary steps for teachers.
  5.     The budget is not a comprehensive plan and is not committed to moving NC teacher salaries to the national average.
  6.     The budget creates inequity for public school state employees and non-public school state employees by providing different raises.
  7.     The budget expands the use of taxpayer dollars for vouchers without accountability.
  8.     The budget appears to shift needed resources to non-recurring allocations and unstable funding sources.
  9.     The budget will place an extra burden on locals as they have to decide what to fund, what to cut and what to maintain for quality public education.
  10.     The budget has many details that have not been shared for discussion in a transparent setting or opportunity for input.

 

Yesterday the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board said that McDonald’s Corporation could be held liable as a joint employer for labor violations at its franchise operations.  The Labor Board is considering complaints brought by McDonald’s employees who claim they were retaliated against by their employers after participating in protests back in November 2012, but the significance of this ruling goes far beyond the complaints pending before the Labor Board.

This decision is a huge victory for the fast food workers organizing to demand $15 and a union.  Corporations like McDonald’s have refused to negotiate with fast food workers, such as the members of NC Raise Up who have been organizing in North Carolina for the past year, claiming that they don’t set wages and don’t have power over how much the franchisees pay.  But yesterday’s ruling is based on the General Counsel’s conclusion that McDonald’s does, in fact, have substantial control over what happens in the individual stores.  McDonald’s won’t be able to hide behind that argument anymore.

This ruling may also signal how judges will rule in several wage theft lawsuits filed in March of this year which allege that McDonald’s is a joint employer and jointly liable with the local franchisees for violations of wage and hour laws.   Those lawsuits allege that through the  franchise agreements and monitoring of the local stores, McDonald’s has enough control over day to day operations to be considered an employer.