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Please join us next week for a special NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon —

“Fraud in the workplace: How numerous North Carolina employers are cheating their competitors and stealing from employees and taxpayers (and what should be done about it)”

Click here to register

There’s a multimillion dollar crime spree underway in North Carolina. Unfortunately, save for the efforts of a few intrepid journalists and lawyers, it’s a problem that’s mostly being ignored and swept under the rug. The issue is wage theft and the “misclassification” of workers by employers. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in a special report last fall entitled “Contract to Cheat”:

“Employers treat many of these laborers as independent contractors. It’s a tactic that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Yet when it comes to public projects, government regulators have done nearly nothing about it, even when the proof is easy to get.

The workers don’t have protections. The companies don’t withhold taxes. The regulators don’t seem to care.”

Mandy Locke

Please join us as we explore this huge and poorly understood problem and how state lawmakers and regulators might properly address it with the lead author of the “Contract to Cheat” series, investigative reporter Mandy Locke.

Since joining the N&O in 2004, Locke has written extensively about the legal system, child welfare and hospital disputes. Her investigative work has been honored nationally by the Michael Kelly Award and the Gerald Loeb Award for business reporting.

Locke will be joined by Raleigh businessman Doug Burton, President and Owner of Whitman Masonry. Burton is one of the numerous North Carolina employers who treats his workers fairly, plays by the rules and is regularly disadvantaged as a result of the state’s lax law enforcement in this area.

When: Wednesday, January 28th, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

The conservatives in Congress are already queuing up to offer proposals that would gut amend Obamacare. For instance, leaders McConnell and Boehner are already proposing to raise the threshold number of hours that employees must work per week from 30 to 40 in order to trigger the mandate that their employer provide coverage.

As Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains on the blog Off the Charts, this will be a destructive idea that will actually lead to less full-time employment:

ACA work thresholdCritics of health reform claim that employers are shifting some employees to part-time work to avoid offering them health insurance.  But the data provide scant evidence of such a shift.

Moreover, raising the threshold for mandating coverage from 30 to 40 hours would make a shift toward part-time employment much more likely — not less so.

Only about 7 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours (that is, at or modestly above health reform’s 30-hour threshold), but 44 percent of employees work 40 hours a week and thus would be vulnerable to cuts in their hours if the threshold rose to 40 hours.  Under the Boehner-McConnell proposal, employers could easily cut back large numbers of employees from 40 to 39 hours so they wouldn’t have to offer them health coverage.

The bottom line according to Van de Water:

There’s little evidence to date that health reform has caused a shift to part-time work.  There’s every reason to expect the impact to be small as a share of total employment, as we have explained.  And raising the cutoff for the employer mandate from 30 to 40 hours a week would be a step in the wrong direction.

Commentary

Robert PittengerThe story of Congressman Robert Pittenger’s clearly genuine but remarkably disturbing comments in favor of the right of employers to fire people because of their sexual orientation just keeps getting weirder. Now, Pittenger is a denying the substance of the comments that he once “stood by” and that were recorded in full. Think Progress has the full story:

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is now claiming that he did not make comments supporting anti-LGBT employment discrimination, as reported by ThinkProgress earlier this month.

At a town hall event in Ballantyne, North Carolina, ThinkProgress asked Pittenger: “Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?” He replied that businesses should have the “autonomy” to fire workers for being LGBT, and asked rhetorically: “Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

The Charlotte Observer picked up the story, and reported that when they called Pittenger to confirm the quotes, the congressman “stood by his comments.” Read More

Commentary

Robert PittengerAn editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer shines a light on the noxious views of North Carolina congressman Robert Pittenger:

Is it OK for a company to fire someone solely because he is gay?

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte thinks so. It’s one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans, he says. Private employers should have the freedom to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation, Pittenger says, and government shouldn’t take that ability away.

After a town hall meeting in Ballantyne this month, a reporter from the liberal political blog ThinkProgress, Alice Ollstein, asked Pittenger if he supported laws to protect gays in the workplace. Pittenger compared the right to fire gay workers to smoking bans.

“Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property,” Pittenger told Ollstein….

In a statement to the Observer editorial board Tuesday, Pittenger stood by his comments. He emphasized that he does not discriminate in his hiring and firing, but said the question should be left to the free market.”

The editorial rightfully goes on to expose the congressman’s opinion as vacuous hogwash indistinguishable from the hateful attitudes of those who would discriminate against potential employees based on race or religion. The congressman needs to rethink his views on this matter and issue an apology ASAP.

NC Budget and Tax Center

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.