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The good people at OxFam America are out with a new and disturbing report that highlights the poor treatment of poultry workers — many of them here in North Carolina. This is from the introduction to “Lives on the line: The human cost of cheap chicken”:

OxFam report“Chicken is the most popular meat in America , and the poultry industry is booming. Profits are climbing, consumer demand is growing, and executive compensation is increasing rapidly.

But one element remains trapped at the bottom: the workers on the poultry processing line. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.

These problems affect the entire industry, but the top four chicken companies control roughly 60 percent of the domestic market: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. As industry leaders, these companies can and should implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country.

The full report explores industry history and trends in consumption, documents the realities and challenges of life working on the line, and offers concrete recommendations to improve conditions.

The immersive website, Lives on the Line, uses multimedia to convey the experiences of workers inside the poultry plant.”

If you can stomach all the images and stories, you’ll find it hard not to conclude that the industry is, on the whole, anything but an exploitative mess.

As the Farmworker Advocacy Network reports:

“There are approximately 28,000 poultry processing workers in North Carolina, who are predominantly people of color and immigrants with a significant number of women. In order to process the chicken that ends up in our grocery stores and our restaurants, they earn poverty level wages, suffer injuries and illnesses at high rates and endure a climate of fear that makes it difficult for them to speak out against these conditions.”

Click here to read an eight page summary.

Click here to read the entire report.

Click here to check out a multimedia website.

Commentary

Tara RomanoYesterday, Tara Romano, President of NC Women United and a regular contributor to NC Policy Watch, spoke at a rally protesting House Bill 318 — the legislation wrongfully targeting immigrants and food assistance recipients that currently sits on Gov. McCrory’s desk awaiting review.

She was kind enough to share a copy of  her remarks, which we present below:

“Buenos tardes. Me llamo Tara Romano, and I am president of North Carolina Women United. As an organization that advocates for the full equality of all women across the state, we stand with the many groups represented here in calling for Governor McCrory to veto HB318. Deceptively titled ‘The Protect North Carolina Workers Act,’ we see this bill as only protecting those who already have power, and are vested in upholding the current racist, sexist status quo.

How are we protecting North Carolina workers when we are denying people jobs and the ability to provide for themselves and their families based on their immigration status? This bill attempts to reinforce the racist lie that black and brown people are making it hard for white citizens to find jobs; when the real reason many North Carolinians can’t find jobs is because of the failed economic policies of our state leadership. Immoral and greedy employers who have taken advantage of undocumented workers desperate to care for their families aren’t interested in creating good jobs for residents of North Carolina, or for anyone; they are only interested in increasing their profits however they can, including by continuing to exploit workers who are further and further pushed to the margins of society by policies like HB318.

How are we protecting North Carolina workers and their families when we are decreasing their ability to be safe in their homes and communities? By creating additional barriers between the immigrant community and their local governments, service providers and law enforcement, we are pushing entire groups of people and families further into the shadows, leaving them vulnerable to corrupt and criminal elements that will take advantage of this second-class status to exploit and harm them.

In particular, we are concerned that the epidemic of sexual and domestic violence Read More

Commentary

The Protect North Carolina Workers Act is one of the remaining piece of legislation on the governor’s desk, following the nine month session. And before deciding whether the bill should become law, Susan Ladd says Governor McCrory should consider the confusion this bill will create at the county level.

While HB 318 would impact food stamp recipients,the Greensboro News & Record columnist explains this bill would also negatively affect immigrants:

consularcard

Consular IDs would be banned under HB 318

Case in point: House Bill 318, which among other things, banned consular cards and IDs created by communities or nonprofits, such as the FaithAction IDs, as acceptable forms of identification.

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and other registers of deed across the state are scrambling to figure out whether they are bound by the language of this bill and how they will deal with Hispanic residents seeking marriage licenses and birth certificates for their children if Gov. Pat McCrory signs it into law. The vast majority of Hispanics use — you guessed it — consular IDs to apply for both these vital documents.

“It would have a significant impact on Hispanics,” Thigpen said. “Even some Hispanics who are citizens use the consular card. The question is, to what extent are we going to deny an applicant who has an unapproved ID, who otherwise has the right to marry?”

His office conducts an average of 20 marriages each day, and Hispanics using consular cards account for several of those.

“So much time and energy was put into making consular cards a good standard of identification,” Thigpen said. “There’s been a lot of work to make sure those cards are secure and solid. If we can’t use that, what does that mean? Do we then accept your power bill? If we can’t use that, are we relying on a less-secure form of identification?”

There is no explicit guidance in existing statutes about what kind of identification the register of deeds office can accept, but most offices use a common set of guidelines. House Bill 318, however, covers “any government official,” which likely would include employees of the register of deeds.

For Thigpen, it’s another headache from a legislature that is focused more on its next election slogan — “I’m tough on immigration” — than the practical effects this bill might have.

“It was not well thought out, and there was no discussion with our folks,” Thigpen said. “We didn’t know it was coming, and haven’t had time to discuss the implications of it.”

Read More

Commentary

Notwithstanding the efforts of North Carolina’s current political leadership to outdo their neighbors to the south on virtually every hot button issue on the right wing agenda, the fact remains that South Carolina is and always has been a more conservative state than North Carolina.

That’s what makes the latest news from a Winthrop University poll all the more startling and encouraging. As the Charlotte Observer reports:

“Immigration is weighing on the minds of South Carolinians as the 2016 presidential primaries approach in February.

Consider: Donald Trump, who has adopted a hard line on dealing with the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, leads GOP presidential polls in South Carolina, the state that holds the South’s first presidential primary.

‘You’re not going to be in a town hall for Trump and say you favor a path to citizenship,’ Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said. ‘You’ll be pelted with red trucker hats.’

But the majority of South Carolinians, including Republicans, don’t share the New York business mogul’s deport-them-now views.

Most in the Palmetto State favor giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, under specific requirements, rather than deporting them or allowing them to stay only for a limited time, according to a Winthrop Poll question asked exclusively for The State newspaper.”

The poll found a solid majority (58%) of South Carolinians to be pro-citizenship. Now, this number is not as high as the national figure (65% according to a Gallup poll) but it does serve to reenforce two important points:

  1. When even 58% of South Carolinains are for doing the right and humane thing, you know that even more North Carolinains are for it, and
  2. Governor McCrory might do well to think twice before playing the anti-immigrant card that he loves to flash — especially when it comes to the bill sitting on his desk to make it harder for immigrants to use alternative identification cards. Though he may win plaudits from the far right, Tea Party crowd, the majority of North Carolinians are almost certainly of a different mind.
Commentary

Today’s edition of the Weekly Briefing examines a mean-spirited proposal approved by state lawmakers in the final days of the 2015 session to take meager food benefits away from hungry people. The provision is reason enough for Governor McCrory to veto House Bill 318.

Amazingly, however, this is not the most controversial portion of HB 318. The bill also contains a major new attack on immigrants that really amounts to an attack on public health and safety. The editorial page of the Charlotte Observer explains:

“House Bill 318 would forbid local governments from ordering their police forces to de-emphasize or stop the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Such ‘sanctuary city’ provisions are in place formally and informally in dozens of cities and counties across the country, including Charlotte.

It’s not news that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want to tell cities how to do their business. But the bill, which Gov. Pat McCrory is likely to sign into law this month, also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of immigration law and how it’s enforced.

Sanctuary cities have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate in recent months, thanks in part to some misinformed rhetoric that the governor parroted last week. Said McCrory: ‘As governor, I believe that every law enforcement officer is sworn to uphold not only the laws of North Carolina, but also the laws of the United States … including our immigration laws.’

But police in sanctuary cities aren’t ignoring the law, and they’re not hiding undocumented immigrants from the clutches of federal agents. What those cities have chosen to do is not use their resources – meaning officers and jails – to serve the purposes of federal programs. That means officers are not asking people their immigration status at traffic stops – and therefore not being obligated to bring undocumented workers in. It also means when undocumented immigrants are arrested for unrelated crimes, many of these cities have chosen not to keep them jailed solely to wait for federal agents to arrive.

It’s a decision cities make for philosophical and budgetary reasons. Either way, it’s legal. The Constitution says that while federal law usually supersedes state law, states are not required to enforce laws that are exclusively federal in nature (such as immigration). In Printz. v. United States, which involved background checks of gun purchases, the Supreme Court said that “the Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers … to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

The author of that opinion? Conservative icon Antonin Scalia.

The editorial goes on to explain that McCrory and conservative lawmakers are using baseless scare tactics to imply that such sanctuary laws somehow prevent the arrest of dangerous criminals — something that is patently false. Let’s fervently hope the words of his hometown paper cause the Guv rethink his position on this issue.

Click here to read the entire editorial.