U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doesn’t want to spend much time focused on all the speculation about whether he’ll make a run for the White House in 2016.  As we approach Labor Day, the 72-year-old wants to talk about the jobs deficit and stagnant wages.

The longest-serving Independent in Congressional history was in Raleigh this week for a town hall forum at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

In an interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Sanders spoke about the need for Congress (and individual states) to do more to help America’s shrinking middle class:

“The very bad news is that many of the new jobs that are being created are low wage jobs, part-time jobs. Median family income today is $5,000 less than it was in 1999. Our goal is obviously job creation, but it is also creating jobs that pay people a livable wage.”

As for conservative lawmakers who have suggested that it may be time to scrap minimum wage laws altogether, Sanders offers this assessment:

“Their belief is that we should abolish the concept of the minimum wage. And that means if you are in a high unemployment area, and you are desperate enough, yup, you’re going to have to work for three or four bucks an hour. That is a step toward feudalism,” explained Sanders. “It’s not just the minimum wage, it’s safety on the job, all types of child labor laws…these guys believe that ‘freedom’ means abolishing all of these laws and leaving working people at the mercy of whatever an employer wants to pay them, or how that employer will treat them.”

Sanders, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, also shares his thoughts on dark money in politics, the need for campaign finance reform, and new efforts to improve  veterans’ health care.

For a preview of that radio interview, click below. For more on North Carolina’s Living Income Standard, click here.
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FamilyNot  according to a new and detailed report from the wonks at the Center for Economic and Policy Research that examined the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (or FLI)  program. The program allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave (capped at $595 a week in 2014) to care for new babies, seriously ill relatives, or themselves. It is paid for by a small tax (up to 60 cents a week) on employees.

Among the major findings:

  • None of the participating employers reported that the Family Leave Insurance program affected their productivity or turnover.
  • Only two of 18 employers felt the program negatively affected their profitability.
  • Some participants found that the program improved employees’ morale. Read More

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


Today fast food workers from around the world—including folks throughout North Carolina – are rallying for a decent raise (most workers In NC make around the minimum wage of $7.25/hour) and the right to collectively bargain.Greenville NC

And now that the state legislature has reconvened, a handful of state representatives introduced House Joint Resolution 1068 calling for a raise to the minimum wage today as well.

The legislation has been shepherded to the Commerce and Job Development Committee, and we’ll see what happens next. Specifically, let’s see what Rep. Thom Tillis, the speaker of the house and Republican U.S.-Senate candidate, will do about it.

Tillis had previously called the minimum wage an “artificial threshold” and a bid to increase it a “dangerous idea.”

But last week on MSNBC he punted –basically to himself — by saying the rate should be set at the state level.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly asked him if he as state Speaker of the House would be in favor of raising the minimum wage in North Carolina, and Tillis couldn’t bring himself to answer that question.

Tillis probably knows that  73 percent of people believe it’s time to raise the wage. Let’s see what he’ll do about it.


farmworkerIt’s National Farmworker Awareness Week: Time to celebrate the dedication and strength of the people who plant and harvest our food.  Farmworkers are exceptional people in so many ways: their incredibly hard work, the courage of many of them in seeking a new life in another country, and their persistence in the face of so many challenges.  Unfortunately, farmworkers are also exceptional in a way that no one wants to be.  Agricultural exceptionalism is a well-established concept in American law – the notion that agriculture is somehow so different from other industries that this justifies treating agricultural workers in ways we would not dream of treating other workers.

What does agricultural exceptionalism mean for farmworkers?  For starters, no entitlement to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 (and there are many of those long hours during peak harvest season). There’s also no minimum wage for labor done on a small farm. Farmworkers who join together to press for better living and working conditions don’t have federal labor law protections. Children as young as 10 can legally work in the fields. And most North Carolina farmers are not required to provide workers’ compensation for their employees, who toil in one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

Let’s take this Farmworker Awareness Week to support those who push to make farmworkers unexceptional, including:

Please use this Farmworker Awareness Week to join their fight.