Archives

Commentary

State lawmakers sent the so-called “Ag gag” bill on to Governor McCrory today. As was explained at some length in this space a few weeks ago, this troubling proposal is targeted at activists who have exposed horrific abuses of animals in agricultural facilities but it raises other concerns that go beyond those circumstances:

“Crafting a statute that protects legitimate property rights when they are competing against the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees and the flow of information in a free society is an enormously complex and difficult proposition. Perhaps there is some reasonable point at which the two competing interests are properly balanced, but then again, perhaps such a balancing point really doesn’t exist. Let’s hope, at a minimum, that sponsors of the bill continue to fine tune the language with an eye toward finding that point and that, if they can’t do so, they opt for language that errs on the side of free speech. The current version isn’t there yet.”

Worker advocates at the North Carolina AFL-CIO issued the following statement today in response to the bill’s passage:

“North Carolina shouldn’t treat workers trying to expose criminal activity by their employers like criminals themselves, but House Bill 405 comes close to doing just that. If Governor McCrory signs this misguided bill into law, employers in our state will be able to sue their workers for having exposed criminal activity on the job. Senators even rejected an amendment that would have allowed those workers to use proof their employer broke the law as a defense in court. It seems lawmakers are more interested in protecting unscrupulous employers than the health and safety of our workforce or of the public at-large. HB 405 is as extreme as it is overbroad, and we call on Gov. McCrory to veto this dangerous legislation.”

Let’s hope that, if nothing else, the Governor’s well-known affection for animals leads him to do more than simply rubber stamp this troubling proposal.

Commentary

Farmworker Justice released a report last week analyzing 8 years of USDOL’s enforcement data of laws protecting farmworkers.  It should come as no surprise that the report, “U.S. Department of Labor Enforcement in Agriculture: More Must be Done to Protect Farmworkers,” found high rates of violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage requirement and basic protections afforded farmworkers under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. However, the report also found that USDOL has improved its enforcement efforts in recent years.

The report caught the attention of David Weill, Administrator of USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division.  In response, Weill writes:

Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable, at-risk populations that the U.S. Department of Labor protects. They are typically unaware of their rights, or afraid to speak up. They often fall victim to wage, health and safety violations as they toil for long hours, often in harsh conditions, to put food on tables across the nation. . .

We have made progress in protecting workers, yet, challenges remain and we must face them in the most effective, efficient ways possible. Since we will never be able to investigate or to provide training to every grower directly, we will continue to deploy our resources strategically to improve compliance as broadly as possible.  We are committed to strengthen the results of every investigation. We will not play a game of whack-a-mole correcting violations on a case-by-case basis. We find the causes of the violations and address them.

You can read his full blog post here.  Farmworker Justice and Weill both agree that USDOL must continue with the trend of more enforcement in order to deter agricultural employers from violating the basic rights of their employees and to protect hard-working farmworkers from abuse.

 

Commentary

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development.]

How critical is it to involve both the business community and the faith/religious community in promoting workers’ rights? And exactly how to we express the importance of this issue and the value of doing the right thing to these communities?

To answer those questions, I am excited to announce this new monthly guest blog series that I have been asked to write for NC Policy Watch.

In creating proactive change around any issue, multiple communities need to be engaged to drive optimal progress. This is true for one of the key issues now facing the state of North Carolina as we work to build a more prosperous state that delivers opportunity to all our citizens; that of workers’ rights. This topic includes such items as raising the minimum wage to a living wage, providing paid sick days, expanding family medical leave eligibility and providing pregnancy non-discrimination in the workplace.

To drive change in this far-reaching initiative, many different communities and constituencies need to be educated and engaged. Nothing truly can happen without a broad coalition comprised of many communities. Across our state, those of us working for workers’ rights need to connect with our politicians and elected officials, business leaders, the general public, educational institutions that are preparing our future leaders, other nonprofits, faith institutions, and probably a few others I left off this list.

As a retired IBM executive Read More

News

For a second day in a row, inclement weather has cancelled numerous appropriation committee meetings that had been scheduled for today at the General Assembly. Legislators, like most of us, are waiting it out at home until temperatures can rise and clear away the icy patches on bridges and roadways.

With a few extra hours on their hands, House and Senate members may want to use this down time to read the latest report on incentives and economic development from the NC Justice Center.

Allan Freyer, the author of Picking Losers: Why the Majority of NC’s Incentive Programs End in Failure, explains that more than half of all firms receiving incentive awards from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program have failed to live up to their promises of job creation, investment, or wages.

Click below to hear Freyer discuss his new report. To read the complete findings for yourself,  click here.

YouTube Preview Image
Commentary
Mandy Locke

Mandy Locke

Looking to learn about an issue — any issue — on which the North Carolina General Assembly might actually pursue a moderately progressive course in 2015? If so, you should definitely plan on attending this Wednesday’s Crucial Conversation luncheon with Raleigh News & Observer reporter Mandy Locke: “Fraud in the workplace: How numerous North Carolina employers are cheating their competitors and stealing from employees and taxpayers (and what should be done about it).”

Locke will discuss the ongoing multimillion dollar crime spree in North Carolina in which “wage theft” and “worker misclassification” by dishonest employers are both robbing workers (and state tax coffers) of millions and millions of dollars. Please join us as we explore this huge and poorly understood problem and how state lawmakers and regulators might properly address it.

Locke will be joined by Raleigh businessman Doug Burton, President and Owner of Whitman Masonry and one of the numerous North Carolina employers who treats his workers fairly, plays by the rules and is regularly disadvantaged as a result of the state’s lax law enforcement in this area and Bill Rowe, General Counsel and Director of Advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center, who will discuss possible legislative and law enforcement solutions.

When: Wednesday, January 28th, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com