Commentary

HB2 blocks access to court for victims of workplace discrimination

By now hopefully you’ve heard that HB2 wasn’t just about the right of transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Among other things, HB2 also eliminated important protections for employees who are fired for a discriminatory reason– based on race, religion, sex, disability or age. An opinion piece in Raleigh’s N&O over the weekend by Durham attorney and life-long Tar Heel Stewart Fisher explains just how devastating that change will be to North Carolina workers. Fisher shares examples of the kind of discrimination his clients have experienced recently:

For the past 34 years I have represented employees who have been mistreated at work. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability and age occurs every day in our state. In just the past year, I have represented:

A black plumber who left his job after protesting that he was being paid less than his white co-workers and found a noose in his work truck.

A gay truck driver fired after complaining that his trainer used a slur and said he “acted like a girl.”

A marketing professional fired at age 60, shortly after the vice president of his company announced that they needed “more young people” and “more people with blue hair and tattoos.”

A Native American employee who resigned after the owner of his company repeatedly taunted him by saying white people took his land and his women.

A Muslim computer programmer fired after he took time to attend a service at his mosque in honor of the Muslims who were shot in Chapel Hill.

A female property manager fired less than two weeks after telling her boss she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

A black factory worker fired after being told “you are just as much a (racial slur) today as you were yesterday.”

Now, thanks to HB2, every one of those workers who was fired for a discriminatory reason will have a much more difficult time enforcing their rights, Fisher explains. Its infuriating that instead of enhancing protections for people who are discriminated against in North Carolina, the General Assembly held a special session to roll back those protections – protections that have been in place for 35 years.

Here’s hoping that Governor McCrory and the NCGA are starting to regret the impact of HB2. The North Carolina Justice Center is one of many organizations calling for Governor McCrory and state legislators to end workplace discrimination rather than expanding it. You can learn more about these efforts by clicking here.

Commentary

John Kasich joins Haley in rebuking McCrory on HB 2; Spellings worries; Burr utters two falsehoods

NO-HB2The news regarding his LGBT discrimination law didn’t get much better for Gov. Pat McCrory over the weekend. Just days after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley rejected his decision to sign HB2, one of the nation’s highest profile Republicans followed suit. Here’s Ohio Governor and presidential candidate John Kasich on CBS News’ Face the Nation:

“In our state, we’re not facing this, so everybody needs to take a deep breath, respect one another, and the minute we start trying to write laws, things become more polarized, things – they become more complicated. Obviously I don’t want to force people to violate their deeply held religious convictions, but we’d have to see what that’s all about. I wouldn’t have signed that law from everything I know, I haven’t studied it.”

Kasich’s rebuke of McCrory comes on the heels of a similar statement by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley last week. As the Fayetteville Observer’s Tim White opined in an excellent essay yesterday:

“I wonder if we could lure Nikki Haley across the state line and get her to run for governor here. She gets it. Our guy is dazed and confused – and apparently clueless about the damage he’s done.”

In another positive development, even UNC President Margaret Spelllings has started to raise questions about the new law as well.

Meanwhile, in other news on the new law, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr told a pair of whoppers over the weekend. According to the Charlotte Observer, Burr told reporter Jim Morrill that the matter is a “state issue” and in the next breath, that it wouldn’t deter businesses from coming to North Carolina. But, of course, both of these statements are false. HB 2 is clearly a national issue — that’s why Kasich and Haley are getting asked about it. And as for not deterring businesses from coming to North Carolina, perhaps Burr should explain that to PayPal or one of the other scores of companies that have weighed in against the law.

News

News & Observer editorial calls for “big raise” for teachers

EducationN.C. Policy Watch reported this week on the humdrum response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s big teacher pay announcement, an announcement that coupled one-time bonuses for teachers with an average 5 percent pay raise.

Now, like many education advocates who spoke out this week, The News & Observer‘s editorial board has joined a chorus criticizing McCrory and his GOP colleagues in the N.C. General Assembly for failing to do more when it comes to teacher pay.

The editorial wrote that the state’s public school teachers have developed a “strong sense of skepticism about Republican plans to help them.”

As we reported Wednesday, the announcement did not offer specifics on who would receive the raises, a key point here because most advocates point out some of the state’s most experienced teachers have been neglected in recent GOP-led teacher raises or bonuses.

Currently, North Carolina’s average public school teacher pay is mired at 42nd in the nation, exceeding about $47,000. McCrory’s plan would bring average teacher pay to about $50,000, still trailing the leaders in the southeast: Georgia, which pays its teachers an average of about $53,000.

From the N&O:

McCrory’s proposal has some appealing aspects and any increase in base pay is welcome, but at its heart his proposal is an attempt to get past November without having teachers in a full uproar.

Teachers will take the salary increase estimated to cost $250 million. But they don’t really want one-time bonuses estimated to cost $165 million. What they want are fair, predictable state salaries that increase with their experience and aren’t capped at $50,000. What McCrory proposes is giving cash to teachers in an election year when tax revenues are strong. When circumstances are otherwise, teachers will go without.

Read more

Commentary

Why Gov. McCrory’s teacher pay proposal is scarcely causing a ripple

Pat McCrory press eventWith the ongoing crisis over North Carolina’s embarrassing duel with Mississippi to enact the nation’s most regressive anti-LGBT discrimination law still dominating the news and political discussion in the state, Gov. Pat McCrory tried to change the subject yesterday by proposing a significant pay raise for the state’s long-abused public school teachers. Unfortunately, for the Guv, it didn’t work — but probably not for the reason that you might suspect.

The obvious explanation for the chirping crickets reaction to the pay plan is the size and depth of the discrimination law problem. And it’s true, with one of the nation’s fast growing web giants, PayPal, announcing cancellation of a 400 person expansion in Charlotte in response to the new law at almost the very same moment as the Governor’s pay announcement, there was clearly less news media oxygen to go around.

But ultimately, here’s the main reason the teacher proposal has produced unanimous yawns: No one — friend or foe — takes Gov. McCrory seriously. Not only are his plans half-baked, they come with no real prospect for actual passage into law. This is from a statement issued by the N.C. Association of Educators:

“Once again there is no long-range plan to elevate public school educators to the head of the class, only election year proposals that do little to make up for years of disrespecting the education profession and dismantling our public schools. It also leaves education support professionals with nothing. There is a reason educator turnover rates are at historic levels. The governor has a track record of signing whatever the Legislature sends him, even if it’s a budget that ends up making North Carolina the second worst for teachers in America.”

The NCAE is right. As a practical matter, McCrory’s education proposals to the General Assembly have about as much impact as those of Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. Legislative leaders — especially Senate President Phil Berger — are utterly and openly contemptuous of the Governor and have made clear that McCrory’s proposals on virtually every subject will be ignored as the Guv has never demonstrated an iota of capacity to exert power — much less stand up to the legislature.

The bottom line: Pat McCrory may get re-elected this fall and serve eight years in office, but until he finds some way to fill the shoes that come with the office, he is, has been and always will be a lame duck when it comes to the vast majority of important policy debates in state government.

Commentary

McCrory zigzagging from moment to moment as pressure builds to repeal discrimination law

Pat McCrory 4When it comes to his performance in enacting and defending North Carolina’s new all-purpose discrimination law, being accused of hypocrisy by Gov. Pat McCrory (the nonsensical charge he keeps lobbing at the opponents of the new law) is a little like being accused by Donald Trump of having a bad comb-over.

The Governor, who leaps wildly from the role of put upon victim to defiant bully several times per day, set a new standard for incoherent inconsistency yesterday. Just a day after defiantly defending the bill in Goldsboro and hours after saying he would be open to making minor, undisclosed changes to the law, the Governor deigned — eight days after he signed it into law under cover of darkness — to meet with three critics of the law (a local transgender woman named Candis Cox, Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro and Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign).

Okay, though absurdly late, that sounded promising. But then look at what the Guv’s spokesperson said in his official post-meeting statement:

“There’s no doubt there is a well-coordinated, national campaign to smear our state’s reputation after we passed a common-sense law to ensure no government can take away our basic expectations of privacy in bathrooms, locker rooms and showers,” said Josh Ellis, Communications Director for Governor McCrory. “Governor McCrory appreciated the opportunity to sit down and deal with these complex issues through conversation and dialogue as opposed to political threats and economic retaliation.”

Say what? “Smear the state’s reputation”? By who, Governor? Retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl? Apple Computer CEO Tim Cook? The National Basketball Association? Why would scores of giant corporations want to “smear” North Carolina? What in God’s  name are you talking about?

But then, look — just two sentences later, McCrory is all sweetness and light, talking about how much he loved sitting down with opponents to discuss the matter!

Does anyone even marginally sober this morning think that such a meeting would have ever occurred had the last week not been filled with loud protests from every corner of the country? The fact is that advocates were asking for the Guv to meet with transgender people long before he even signed the new law, but got absolutely nowhere. Had he not felt that he had to hold the meeting yesterday to try and buy some time, McCrory would have quickly slipped back into his preferred role as the state’s under-the radar, ribbon cutter-in-chief so fast it would have made your head spin.

The bottom line: Nine days into the biggest political and policy crisis to hit North Carolina in years, there is no relief in sight. The driving forces behind the new law are unrepentant. The demands from around the country to repeal the law are mounting. And the Governor is zigzagging madly in desperate hopes of finding some way of making the problem go away. Unfortunately for him, as he continues to discover on a daily basis, that just isn’t going to happen unless he somehow summons a measure courage and skill we’ve not seen from him before to face down his right-wing base and force a repeal of the law.