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Cherie Berry 2It’s no secret that North Carolina state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has been doing the bidding of the state’s employer community for years. If there’s an important issue impacting the well-being of the state’s workers, you can always rest assured that Berry will either be: a) defending/making excuses  for employers or b) AWOL.

This latter description aptly summarizes Berry’s performance (or rather lack thereof) when it comes to the issue so thoroughly described in a recent series of Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Contract the cheat.”

Saturday’s editorial in the N&O neatly summarized the issue and Berry’s ongoing dereliction of her duties: Read More

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Malfunctioning elevators aren’t getting follow-up inspections, and labor inspectors didn’t check in on  companies who have gotten in trouble in the past to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws, according to a financial audit from N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood’s office.

The audit released Thursday by Wood’s office found that at the N.C. Department of Labor:

  • Only 3 percent of elevators found to be in violation of safety rules in 2012 had follow-up inspections
  • Penalties for elevator violations are nominal and rarely imposed
  • No follow-up reviews were conducted for 11 employers that violated wage and hour  laws

The N.C. Department of Labor is headed by Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, whose picture hangs in every elevator in the state as part of the annual inspection notice.

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry

The department is updating computer software to better track labor investigators work and ensure that follow-up reviews are done at both divisions, according to the agency’s response in the audit.

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Despite decades of media attention and lawsuits, North Carolina agricultural interests continue to frequently subject migrant workers to the kind of treatment one would associate with barnyard animals. A new Wake Forest University study offers the latest outrageous news on this subject. Here’s a news release sent out by the Justice Center this morning:

Wake Forest University Study Finds Violations Rampant in Migrant Housing

Study reveals multiple housing law violations at every camp inspected; advocates urging NCDOL to increase inspections of farm worker housing

RALEIGH (March 30, 2012) – A newly released study from the Center for Worker Health at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that migrant housing in North Carolina is plagued with Read More

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There’s been a lot of news lately about the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s apparent disinterest in enforcing state law and punishing wrongdoers. In December, State Auditor Beth Wood released a report showing the DOA failed to issue up to $2.5 million in fines for violations related to handling of propane, collecting instead only $4,100.  

Now the DOA has done it again. Rather than throw the book at Hoke County turkey plant officials responsible for animal cruelty, DOA employee Sarah Jean Mason tipped off the veterinarian at the plant that an inspection was imminent.  After Dr. Mason pled guilty to giving confidential information during a criminal investigation and giving false statements to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Department, the DOA suspended her for two weeks.

It’s time our state agencies started taking enforcement seriously. The NC Department of Labor has a similar history of ignoring repeat violators and reducing fines when it comes to enforcing laws that protect some of our most vulnerable workers.  As Wood’s report said, “[the] expectation of voluntary compliance with respect to repairs or corrective action has been ineffective.”

 

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North Carolina’s Farmworker Advocacy Network is promoting a fun new Valentine’s Day initiative in which it calls on caring North Carolinians to ask State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry to “quit breaking our hearts.”

This is from the website:

“We want to tell Cherie Berry that she is “breaking our heart” this Valentine’s Day with her department’s responses that fall shockingly short of addressing the concerns about enforcement of farmworker protections raised by farmworker advocates. For example, Read More