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Cherie Berry 2It simply shouldn’t take a four-year herculean effort by an extraordinarily dedicated lawyer in order for a handful of average workers to get paid an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Unfortunately, as this story by reporter Mandy Locke in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear, it does take such an effort these days in North Carolina where the state’s absurdly low-energy Labor/Elevator Commissioner Cherie Berry continues muddle along, doing as little as possible to protect the workers of our state.

As Locke reports:

“Every few months for nearly four years, Katharine Woomer-Deters had lugged a box full of records three blocks from her office to the Wake County courthouse. Inside it: all the proof and power she should have needed to force a Raleigh contractor to pay wages he owed to seven workers for labor in 2010.

Woomer-Deters and her employer, the N.C. Justice Center, have devoted tens of thousands of dollars worth of time and energy trying to get Robert Charleton Miller, owner of Raleigh construction company NC Contracting Inc., to pay the $14,000 he owed.

Finally, on Thursday, Woomer-Deters got what she needed: a payment from Miller. He signed an agreement to pay monthly until his debt is settled. He made his first installment Thursday.

It took the threat of jail and a stern judge to push Miller toward the settlement.”

And, of course, this latest development is just the latest in a scandalously long trail of cases in which employers across North Carolina have been failing to pay workers the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. As Locke reported last fall in her five-part “Contact to Cheat” investigation: “North Carolina is losing $467 million in annual tax revenue from the practice within the construction industry alone.”

Unfortunately, state Labor Commissioner Berry — the constitutional officer charged with protecting the workers of our state from such predations — continues to snooze away through her fourth full term in office, out of sight and out of mind. There’s no word yet on whether Berry intends to seek a fifth term in 2016, but if her somnambulant performance in office over the past decade and a half is any indication, she’ll probably mail in her decision.

Commentary

Cherie Berry 2It’s no secret that North Carolina state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has been doing the bidding of the state’s employer community for years. If there’s an important issue impacting the well-being of the state’s workers, you can always rest assured that Berry will either be: a) defending/making excuses  for employers or b) AWOL.

This latter description aptly summarizes Berry’s performance (or rather lack thereof) when it comes to the issue so thoroughly described in a recent series of Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Contract the cheat.”

Saturday’s editorial in the N&O neatly summarized the issue and Berry’s ongoing dereliction of her duties: Read More

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There’s been a lot of news lately about the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s apparent disinterest in enforcing state law and punishing wrongdoers. In December, State Auditor Beth Wood released a report showing the DOA failed to issue up to $2.5 million in fines for violations related to handling of propane, collecting instead only $4,100.  

Now the DOA has done it again. Rather than throw the book at Hoke County turkey plant officials responsible for animal cruelty, DOA employee Sarah Jean Mason tipped off the veterinarian at the plant that an inspection was imminent.  After Dr. Mason pled guilty to giving confidential information during a criminal investigation and giving false statements to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Department, the DOA suspended her for two weeks.

It’s time our state agencies started taking enforcement seriously. The NC Department of Labor has a similar history of ignoring repeat violators and reducing fines when it comes to enforcing laws that protect some of our most vulnerable workers.  As Wood’s report said, “[the] expectation of voluntary compliance with respect to repairs or corrective action has been ineffective.”

 

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Hope folks will check out today’s edition of Setting the record straight, which shines a light on an amazingly ignorant and mean-spirited email from the office of the state Labor Commissioner, Cherie Berry.

In it, Berry’s spokeswoman tells an AP reporter that the detailed complaint filed by lawyers representing exploited farmworkers is “a political stunt to promote a leftist agenda.”

The agenda: providing adequate toilets to farmworkers.

Read the article by clicking here.