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Durham County Commissioners forced to limit living wage ordinance

Living wageThe fallout from the destructive 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly continues to settle out across the state policy landscape.

As you will recall, during the waning days of the session, lawmakers enacted (and Governor McCrory approved) a new restriction on the ability of cities and counties to enter into contracts on their own terms. Last night, in response to the new law, Durham County Commissioners retracted part of the county’s forward-looking living wage ordinance.

The County Commissioners expressed regret about their action, which was in response to HB 74, signed into law by Gov. McCrory on August 23. The so-called “regulatory reform” law, among many other things, prohibits cities and counties from requiring their contractors to pay a living wage or to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Asheville has had a similar requirement since 2011.

County officials noted their displeasure at the move. Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said, “This is a step backward, and I just think it’s a shame.”

Fortunately, Durham and other counties and cities retain the right to set living wages for their own employees. In the same meeting, the Durham County Commissioners voted to expand that requirement to apply to part-time and seasonal employees. Currently, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Asheville, and Buncombe County also require a living wage for their employees.

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