September 17, 2015
Working for a better life in North Carolina
Working people celebrated progress in the campaign for union rights and raising wages on Labor Day this year, but a new report reveals there’s much more that can be done to improve the state of work in North Carolina.
Working people in North Carolina commemorated Labor Day this year with a parade and picnics, prayers in the pulpits, and community service to honor the American worker and to celebrate the incredible achievements of all people who are working for a better life. Union members marched in Labor Day parades in Canton and Charlotte today, following a weekend that included a union-sponsored service project at Greensboro Urban Ministries and the observance of the second annual Labor Sabbath – an organized effort with dozens of congregations across North Carolina to get more people of faith to hear and talk about labor unions on Labor Day weekend.
Watch coverage of the Labor Day parade in Charlotte by WSOC TV:
“The Bible and teachings of other faiths tell us to take care of the poor, but the real moral imperative is to make sure people aren’t poor to begin with,” said state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer MaryBe McMillan, who was invited to speak to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh on Sunday and told them that justice is what workers seek. “Justice is dignity on the job, the freedom to bargain, and the ability to provide for your family.”
Efforts underway across North Carolina have shown progress toward justice for working people and a Raising Wages agenda that recently scored an increase in the minimum wage for hundreds of city workers in Greensboro. AFL-CIO community affiliate Working America, which now has 45,000 members in the Piedmont Triad, led that coalition effort and celebrated the win on Saturday with a “Community Day” open-house and picnic at their new offices in Greensboro.
Listen to Working America’s North Carolina director, Carolyn Smith, talk about the state of labor on the NC Public Radio program The State of Things.
Last week also saw the opening of the Central Carolina Worker Justice Center in Greensboro. Programming at the center aims to provide training and help for working people without a union on their side so that, together, they can remedy unjust treatment on the job and fight the root causes of economic insecurity like low-wages and a lack of paid leave.
Last spring Durham joined Asheville to become the second city in North Carolina to have a living wage certification program for employers while employees at fast-food restaurants, daycare and home health care agencies, and in higher education held the largest one-day mobilization of low-wage workers in the history of North Carolina on April 15 as part of the growing Fight for $15-and-a-union movement.
Public policy that supports the ability of working people to form and join unions is an important part of creating quality jobs in North Carolina, according to the authors of the report, State of Working North Carolina, released today by the NC Justice Center.
Recently the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling that, if upheld in court, will make it easier for working people in low-wage industries to exercise the collective bargaining power unions make possible by forcing corporations like McDonald’s to take responsibility as a “joint-employer” of workers at franchises and subcontractors.
That was good news to Rev. Niels Chapman of Greensboro, who took part in the Labor Sabbath and who has worked for 17 years at Thomas Built Buses, where employees know firsthand the power of a union contract. “We can no longer hope that corporations and policy makers will do the right thing because we ask them to. We have to return to what works for working people — labor unions.”