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Commentary, News, The State of Working North Carolina
MaryBe McMillan

MaryBe McMillan of the N.C. AFL-CIO answers questions from some of the reporters in attendance prior to this morning’s rally in Raleigh.

About a hundred people gathered next to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in downtown Raleigh this morning for a rally/press conference to help kick off a three-stop “#TalkUnion” tour that is being by state union and civil rights leaders. The tour will also feature a noon event in Greensboro at the Beloved Community Center at 417 Arlington Street and conclude with a 5:30 p.m. rally in Charlotte’s Marshall Park at 800 east 3rd Street. All are invited.

The event in Raleigh featured Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan as well as rank and file workers and leaders from the local faith community.  All spoke of the desperate need in North Carolina to raise wages for average workers and to halt and reverse the conservative policy agenda of the state’s current political leadership.

The claims of the various speakers were boosted this morning by the release of the latest “State of Working North Carolina” report by experts at the North Carolina Justice Center.

This is from a release that accompanied the new report:

  • Almost six out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages, keeping workers trapped in poverty even when they are working full-time.
  • The growth in low-wage work is disproportionately impacting workers of color and women: 13.2 percent of women, 13.5 percent of African-Americans, and 23 percent of Latinos earn below the living income standard, compared to 9.7 percent of men and 9 percent of whites.
  • The persistence of higher unemployment rates for African-Americans is in part being driven by the greater labor force resiliency of African-American workers. Since the recession, African-Americans have not dropped out of the labor force at the same level as white workers.
  • There are approximately 260,000 North Carolina working families who live in poverty, with 12.8 percent of working families earning poverty wages.
  • 13 of 14 metro areas saw labor forces decline since June 2013. For eight metros, the decline in unemployment was driven by the unemployed moving out of the labor force rather into jobs.
  • Rural employment dropped 2.7 percent since the start of the recovery while the state’s large metropolitan areas have seen 6.5 percent job growth.

These data coincided neatly with Rev. Barber’s statement in announcing today’s tour in which he noted:

“While we honor our workers on Labor Day, we cannot ignore the policies and laws passed down from this North Carolina General Assembly that are attacking poor and working families. We believe North Carolinians who work 40 hours each week should be able to put food on their tables and buy school clothes for their children. The long fight for labor rights, for voting rights, for educational equality and for quality health care for all is not a fight between Republican and Democrat. It is a moral fight for the soul of the nation. That is why we are making this Labor Day a Moral Monday.”

Click here for more information on the #TalkUnion tour.”

Click here to read the entire “State of Working North Carolina” report.

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Carolyn and Cy King

Carolyn and Cy King in a photo that accompanied a 2012 NC Council of Churches story about Carolyn’s passing

We lost Cy King this week. As Anne Blythe of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in this excellent story yesterday, the veteran progressive activist passed away on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 91.

Would that we could all look back at the end of our days on a life so well and richly lived.

As just about anyone in the Triangle with any connection to the movements for peace and civil liberties or social, economic and political justice can attest, Cy was a ubiquitous force for good. Together with his late wife Carolyn, Cy simply made making the world a better place his life’s work.

But beyond his dedication to the cause, Cy was also one of those rare human beings who simply exuded love and decency in everything he did. As Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Church told Blythe: “It was always with this gentleness [that he spoke out]. But the gentleness, his compassion, did not water down the passion.”

You simply couldn’t be with Cy — even for a short time — and not feel better about yourself and life in general. This was especially true if you were employed in the progressive advocacy world. Just seeing the twinkle in his eye and receiving his encouragement was enough to inspire dozens of advocates down through the years to stay true to the fight for peace and justice. I know it was for me and many of my colleagues.

We mourn his loss but will do our best to carry on his gentle but powerful spirit. RIP.

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Dean BakerWhat’s the real deal with the American economy? Where do things stand? What’s holding us back? What about the situation in North Carolina? Please join us Wednesday, March 26, as we tackle these topics and more with one of America’s leading economists, Dean Baker.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, CNBC and NPR. He writes a weekly column for theguardian.com, The Huffington Post, Truthout and his blog, Beat the Press,, which features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Daily News (New York). He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan.

Click here to register Read More

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As reported here and elsewhere, conservatives in the U.S. Congress have been pushing the illusory medicine of austerity a lot in recent weeks. A draconian proposal to slash the federal SNAP program (i.e. food stamps) is just one example of this shortsighted approach in action.

The latest conservative proposals are, of course, predicated on the concept the “we just can’t afford” such programs. As retired Wake Forest economics professor Don Frey argued presusuaively in the following recent takedown of the Paul Ryan budet, however, the scarcity theory undelying the conservative budget proposals is simply and demonstrably wrong.  

Donald FreyA basic economics lesson for Paul Ryan and his allies
By Dr. Donald Frey

WINSTON-SALEM – Recently, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House cancelled a vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill (the ironic acronym is “THUD”) offered by their House committee. They knew the bill would fail because of the drastic spending cuts tailored to meet the unrealistic guidelines of the Paul Ryan budget adopted earlier this year.

This Ryan budget was unrealistic, not merely in a political sense, but in a far deeper sense. It was premised on the flawed idea of Malthusian scarcity. Read More

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There’s new confirmation today that it’s time, once and for all, for North Carolina politicians to ditch their absurd obsession with being “competitive” with neighboring southeastern states.

According to a new report described here, the Southeast is the nation’s backwater for economic mobility.

“The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.”