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As we approach Labor Day weekend, new data from the state Division of Employment Security  shows unemployment rates fell in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties last month. However, most of the job growth this past year has occurred in Leisure & Hospitality, the lowest-wage sector.

This industry pays roughly $12 below the statewide average, according to analysis by the NC Budget & Tax Center.

MaryBe McMillan with the NC State AFL-CIO says it’s troubling that the employment opportunities that have replaced the manufacturing jobs lost during the recession fail to provide families a living wage:

“Folks cannot get by on $7.25 an hour, and it’s long overdue we raise the minimum wage, make it a living wage, index it to inflation so we are not going another decade or so without a wage increase,” explained McMillan in an interview with NC Policy Watch.

Minimum wage workers and their supporters will gather today (Thursday) in cities across the nation, including Raleigh, asking to be paid $15 an hour.

For a preview of McMillan’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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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