February 4, 2012
Workers, community activists call for more sunshine at state legislature
We had good crowd at Gaston Community College in Belmont, NC last Monday to welcome North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis to another of his “Divide & Conquer” town halls. It was Tillis’ first town hall appearance since holding a surprise midnight session of the General Assembly on January 5 to strip teachers of their rights.
Over 50 union members and community activists carried signs outside that read “Sunshine Cures Shady Politics”, “Cowards strike in the dark of night”, and “Extremism in the pursuit of power IS vice” in protest before walking inside to question Tillis about his extremist agenda.
“We think it’s just an out of control use of government powers, and we’re not going to stand for it anymore,” said Justin Guillory of our coalition partner, Progress NC to the Gaston Gazette.
“We don’t want any more dirty tactics to catch people by surprise. It’s unconstitutional and it’s unethical.”
The new arrogance of those in charge of our legislature was on full display inside the auditorium where the town hall was held.
Tillis blamed a lack of “productive engagement” by teachers in the debate over the state budget for his attacks on their rights. But Tillis’ own words reveal his actions were nothing more than political payback.
Tillis explained that voting to take away teachers’ rights while they slept was convenient and should have come as no surprise. Donna Hayes, local NCAE president, responded that “Anything that happens at 1 o’clock in the morning is a surprise because, normally, people do not do business that way.”
Tillis was asked whether he would commit to honor our state’s open meetings laws by providing a 48-hour notice and agenda for all future sessions of the General Assembly. But he refused to do so “as a practical matter”.
Alan Penley, a member of UAW 5285, testified that organized labor – particularly at the Freightliner plants in Cleveland, Mt. Holly, and Gastonia as well as the Thomas Built Bus plant in High Point – had used collective bargaining power to save good-paying American jobs.
Given the positive role unions are playing in North Carolina, Alan asked Tillis why he won’t stop beating up on labor. Tillis responded that he’s happy to talk to unions but added that “you’re never going to change my view about collective bargaining.”
Right-wing extremists in our legislature are out of control. Let’s rein them in before it’s too late. Learn more and take action at www.outofcontrolnc.com.