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Moral MondaysWith today’s Moral Monday focusing on, among other things, the rights of workers in North Carolina, be sure to check out this essay from Saturday’s Raleigh News & Observer by NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan. As McMillan notes:

“At what cost to the residents of this state do our lawmakers and our governor do the bidding of organized greed? A devastating coal ash spill fouls our waterways, and fracking threatens our water supply. Children as young as 12 work our tobacco fields. Jobless North Carolinians struggle to make ends meet on reduced and inadequate unemployment benefits. Teachers work without pay raises, textbooks and teaching assistants. Children, the aged and the disabled are being kicked off Medicaid while hundreds of thousands are left to get sick and die, caught up in a Medicaid blockade of lawmakers’ own making. Citizens are made to overcome obstacles in exercising their right to vote. Even our right to vote is under attack. If we stand by and do nothing, we are signing off on this moral bankruptcy. Read More

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North Carolina’s recent wintry weather has helped give rise to a lot of pent up activity this week. Tonight at 7:00 pm for instance, is an excellent event at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies entitled “Organizing the South: How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Click here for more information and here to watch the video livestream tonight.

And speaking of not-to-be-missed events, be sure if you get the chance to check out the Raleigh showing of “Inequality for All,” Robert Reich’s powerful new movie about America’s modern economy. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 18 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building. Parking is free on campus. Click here for more information.

And speaking of the exploding inequality of the modern economy, check out economist Dean Baker’s essay from over the weekend in which he explains how America’s inequality hasn’t occurred by accident or simply as the result of the talent and hard work of the top 1%. To the contrary, as Baker explains, it’s happened “by design.”

And speaking of things that are exploding, the Duke Coal Ash disaster continues to be the biggest story in the North Carolina policy world. Read More

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Fast food workersRaleigh’s News & Observer published an outstanding think piece by Kevin Rogers of Action NC today udner the headline “The high cost of fast-food’s low wages.” Rogers’ headline was simpler: “McWelfare.” 

As you can see below, either one works.

I recently met Willietta Dukes, a mother of two and fast-food employee in Durham, North Carolina. Willietta makes $7.85 at Burger King, despite 16 years of experience in the fast-food industry. In August, tired of struggling to get by, she walked off her job, just a month after losing her home because she could no longer afford rent payments. Despite working hard for as many hours as she gets from Burger King, Willietta is forced to rely on food stamps just to make ends meet.

Willietta is not alone. Research released this week finds that more than half – 52% – of fast-food workers nationwide are paid so little that the public needs to provide assistance to make sure workers can afford basic, everyday needs. In other words, fast-food employees are twice as likely as other workers to be forced to rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Medicaid. Read More

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Xmas presentAs the 2013 legislative session begins to move toward adjournment, it looks like the General Assembly is taking its practice of pulling complex and controversial bills out of thin air and passing them before anyone even has time to respond to the next level. Among today’s examples: a giant new bill to rewrite dozens of state regulations — many dealing with important environmental protections.

Today, the Senate Rules Committee took up House Bill 74. Prior to the meeting, the bill was a modest three-page  proposal entitled “Periodic Review and Expiration of Rules.” After the meeting it was a 56 page monster with scores of separate sections entitled the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2013.” Don’t look for it online though — things are moving so fast the General Assembly website hasn’t even caught up yet. Read More