An alternative to greed and austerity
Times are still difficult for North Carolina’s working families. The decisions made by the N.C. General Assembly in the 2013-14 legislative session will be crucial in determining the future of those families. As in the past, the N.C. State AFL-CIO will be a leading, and sometimes the only, voice for workers and their families on work-place related issues at the legislature.
It will be extremely challenging this session to garner support for our issues. As a result, it is more important than ever that legislators hear from union members about the issues important to working families. And it is equally important that we hold legislators accountable when they vote for policies that hurt workers’ interests.
We have adopted an agenda that we believe addresses the most fundamental needs of North Carolina workers and their families. Our agenda promotes good jobs, safe workplaces, and strong protection of our rights as workers, voters, and consumers. It is an agenda that will move our economy forward by putting people back to work and enabling them to provide for their families. It is an agenda that recognizes that helping workers is how we help the overall economy.
Grim reality greets conference attendees
When the 2013 Labor Legislative Conference (LLC) convened in Raleigh on Tuesday, participants learned the outlook at the start of the new biennium of the North Carolina General Assembly for working people, consumers, the environment, clean elections advocates, and many other constituencies is grim, indeed.
In less than a fortnight, Republican lawmakers in Raleigh have introduced and passed bills to make devastating cuts to our unemployment insurance system, to fire the members of all state oversight boards (like the Utilities Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, the Board of Elections, and the Industrial Commission, for example), and to reject full federal funding to expand Medicaid to cover 500,000 more North Carolinians.
Nevertheless, after getting up to speed on our legislative agenda, a delegation of about 90 union members walked over to the legislative building on Jones Street and met with their representatives and senators – Republicans and Democrats – to hand-deliver a DVD of the video NC Stories of Life on Unemployment and to urge them to oppose cuts our state’s vital unemployment insurance system. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. On Tuesday afternoon, as many LLC delegates looked down from the House gallery, the House voted along party lines to approve cuts to unemployment.
Western North Carolina CLC president, Mark Case, described a futile visit he and his delegation had with one lawmaker who supported the cuts:
“I had one Republican legislator try to explain this plan to me, and he closed with the following, ‘Mark, we have to get people back to doing what our parents and grandparents did. If there is no work here in NC, follow the work to wherever it is at.’
“I didn’t respond anymore; he was a hopeless individual. What he was telling his constituents was, ‘If you can’t find a job here, move to another state.'”
State Rep. Deborah Ross honored as A Friend of Workers
At the LLC Awards Banquet on Tuesday night, state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, MaryBe McMillan, presented State Representative from Wake County, Deborah Ross, with our 2013 Friend of Workers Award for her “many years looking out for workers and the most vulnerable in our society.”
Hours before accepting the award, Rep. Ross was arguing forcefully on the House floor against Republican lawmakers’ extreme and devastating cuts to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance program. “That we got folks on the record saying that they really did not care about unemployed workers, I think, is extraordinary,” said Rep. Ross, a Democrat from Wake County:
“Without good workers, North Carolina and North Carolina businesses can’t do anything. And when you devalue people, you break their spirit. And when you break their spirit, you can’t have a great state.
“When we talk about North Carolina, we say that we want to bring everybody up. And that the only way North Carolina will be a great state again – because it is going down hill – is to bring everybody up, to grow the middle class.
“The bill that we dealt with today turns the middle class into a poverty class. It doesn’t recognize the temporary struggles people have. If we don’t invest in our people our state is not worth very much.
“It’s gonna get worse before it’s gonna get better. But every single morning when we get up, we have to see the vision, we have to know what we need to do, and we have to keep fighting, every single-solitary day until we reclaim this state.” — Rep. Deborah Ross, 2/5/2013
Pictured at top: LLC delegates prepare to lobby lawmakers with a role-play exercise.