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The following post was submitted to NC Policy Watch by Vicki Meath, Executive Director of the group Just Economics in Asheville.

Another attack on workers and local governments
By Vicki Meath

Among the harmful and destructive bills passed during the waning hours of 2013 legislative session was HB 74 (“The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013”). The bill now awaits the Governor’s review.  

In this bill affecting rules in a variety of areas (including significant rollbacks of environmental protections) lawmakers included an anti-living wage, anti-local government, anti-worker provision. Section 5 eliminates the rights of cities and counties to enact living wage policy or paid sick day requirements for contract workers.   Read More

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As we reported in this space last week, the General Assembly is advancing a last-minute “regulatory reform” bill in the session’s waning days that is chock-full of dozens of special favors to industry lobbyists, including several new provisions to further restrict environmental protection.

Today, however, advocates discovered yet another hidden gem in the bill — a provision that will prevent forward-thinking local governments (like Asheville and Durham) from requiring contractors to treat workers decently. Read More

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Earline ParmonSenator Earline Parmon has resorted to a relatively unusual tactic in an effort to unearth a piece of common sense legislation that has been buried in the Senate Rules Committee for the past two months. The Winston-Salem Democrat gave notice last Thursday that she is circulating a discharge petition on Senate Bill 220 — a measure she is sponsoring along with her colleagues, Senators Angela Bryant and Don Davis to index the state minimum wage to the inflation rate.

Though Senate leaders have thus far refused to allow the bill to be heard, Parmon’s proposal is actually a fairly modest suggestion that has historically enjoyed bipartisan support. Currently, ten states – including the conservative bastions Florida and Arizona – already index their hourly minimum wage to keep up with inflation. Polls also indicate strong support across the political spectrum for such a proposal.

And make no mistake, such a change is clearly necessary. Over the last 40 years, Read More

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This is from a release distributed this morning by the North Carolina Housing Coalition:

High rents make housing unaffordable for many in Raleigh-Cary

Raleigh, N.C. –Renters in the Raleigh-Cary area need to earn $16.88 per hour in order to afford a basic apartment here, according to a report released today that compares the cost of rental housing with what renters can really afford.

The report, Out of Reach 2013, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, and the North Carolina Housing Coalition. The report provides the Housing Wage and other housing affordability data for every state, metropolitan area, combined non metropolitan area, and county in the country. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market. Read More

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The North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Council of Churches, the NC AFL-CIO, and NC MomsRising held a press conference this morning in support of restaurant workers across the country who are being undervalued and underpaid for their work. The chosen date – 2/13 – intends to draw attention to the low $2.13 sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers.

The groups noted that the restaurant industry is growing in North Carolina, with food service occupations projected to have one of the highest growth rates in the state over the next decade. Yet occupations associated with food service are among the lowest paid in the state, and offer few employment benefits including health insurance and paid sick days.

The current federal and North Carolina tipped minimum wage is just $2.13. Employers can pay workers the lowest, sub-minimum wage as long as the $2.13 wage plus tips is equal to $7.25 – the binding state and federal minimum wage – over the course of the workweek. Over time, the gap between the sub-minimum wage and minimum wage has increased, with workers currently expected to make up more than two-thirds of their hourly pay through tips.

You can read more sobering details on the oft-ignored issue by checking out this new brief from the NC Justice Center entitled “Tipping the scales toward fair wages:  The $2.13 Sub-minimum Wage Reduces the Value of Hard Workin the Food Service Industry.”

Watch video highlights of the event below: