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“Harvest of Dignity,” a 30-minute documentary that chronicles the lives of modern farm workers in North Carolina, won a regional Emmy over the weekend in the topical documentary category.

The film updates Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 report, “Harvest of Shame”, and shows that unfortunately, not much has changed about how our country treats the people who work so hard to deliver the bounty of our farms to our grocery stores and our tables.

Donna Campbell of Minnow Media in Carrboro, worked closely with the Farmworker Advocacy Network to make the film. Upon accepting the award in Nashville Saturday, Campbell said she did so on behalf of North Carolina’s farm workers.

“Those of us who haven’t spent 16 hours in a sweet potato field really have no idea what hard work is,” she said (you can watch the awards speech around 01:14 of the Emmy broadcast.

At least 150,000 farm workers and their families are in North Carolina for each growing season, according to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute.  often making less than $11,000 a year. Wage and safety violations are unfortunately all too common, with workers still facing difficulties like pesticide exposure, unacceptable living conditions and rampant wage theft.

The thought-provoking movie is worth watching with a book club or group of friends or neighbors, sure to raise awareness and generate discussion. Watch the movie and download discussion materials here: http://pic.tv/harvest/.

More than 1 million jobless workers were deserted by lawmakers who failed to extend the federal unemployment benefits program that expired in late December. This came three weeks after the Congressional Budget Office concluded that extending emergency unemployment compensation through the end of 2014 would positively impact economic growth and job creation in the short term. Despite this report, conservative members of the US Senate blocked efforts yesterday to extend unemployment insurance at a time when long-term unemployment is at record high-levels.

To no surprise, conservatives are insisting that the extension of benefits be paid for by cuts in other programs, including those that offer support to low-income and jobless families. In exchange for their vote, some conservative Senators want to bar immigrant families from claiming the Child Tax Credit—a measure known as the Ayotte Amendment. This tactic is misguided and counterproductive. Read More

Immigrants ICEA recent court settlement in Alabama should serve as a warning to North Carolina legislators who still seek to pass anti-immigrant laws. Alabama agreed to settle two law suits brought against it after the passage of its harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, in 2011.  Both immigrants’ rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice sued Alabama over different parts of the law, and both those suits settled last week.

Previously many of the harshest provisions of the Alabama law had already been temporarily blocked by courts, and in the new settlement, Alabama agreed that those provisions would never go into effect, including a provision requiring public schools to verify the immigration status of students, and one preventing all contracts with undocumented immigrants. The permanent blocking of those harmful provisions is a huge victory for immigrants in Alabama and across the nation.

Most of the parts of the law that are now permanently blocked in Alabama never made it into North Carolina’s omnibus immigration bill, HB 786, which was proposed in 2013.  However, several provisions in Alabama’s law were identical or similar to those proposed here, and their fate in this recent settlement should be of interest to state lawmakers.

North Carolina legislators, for example, Read More

From the good folks at the Farmworker Advocacy Network:

FarmworkersFarmworkers’ Day of the Dead celebration calls for new life in labor issues
Remembering the dead, holiday highlights workers’ plight, lax state protections

RALEIGH, NC – Gathering this Saturday to remember fallen field and poultry workers, North Carolina farmworkers and human rights advocates are set to observe the Day of the Dead in light of current labor hardships. Workers and members of the Farmworker Advocacy Network will gather after El Centro restaurant’s Day of the Dead 5K Run/Walk in downtown Raleigh in honor of the holiday, in which friends and families assemble to celebrate lost loved ones. This year advocates will gather around a traditional Day of the Dead altar at El Centro at 11 a.m. to remember farmworkers who died on the job in North Carolina, including nine children over the last decade. Read More

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Here are some of the important policy matters we’re watching at mid-week:

Wos Watch: Reporters Laura Leslie of WRAL, Joe Neff and Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer have the scoop on the latest wacky hire at the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, Travis Fain of the Greensboro News & Record has compiled a list of what might be termed Aldona’s Greatest Hits (or Misses).

Greed and inequality watch: There’s another report out panning the so-called “Trans-Pacific Partnership.” According to researcher David Rosnick of the Center for Economic Policy Research, most U.S. workers would actually experience a net negative impact from the proposed trade deal that’s currently under negotiation And, of course, you can learn lots more about this critical but underreported story at next Thursday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon with global trade expert Lori Wallach of the group Public Citizen. Some seats still remain – click here for more info.

Greed and inequality watch – Part II: National Common Cause chairperson and veteran economic justice advocate Robert Reich appears to be garnering quite a bit of well-deserved attention for his new flick: “Inequality for All.” You can watch the official trailer here and an extended interview with Jon Stewart here.  

Knuckleheaded bigot watch: Read More