December 11, 2019
A True Champion of Working People
The NC State AFL-CIO is proud to endorse Jessica Holmes for Labor Commissioner. After almost two decades of neglect and lax enforcement under retiring Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, North Carolinians have a chance to elect a true champion of working people. As the youngest person to serve on the Wake County Commission and a first-generation college student, Jessica is poised to break yet another barrier by becoming the first African American woman elected to the Council of State.
Jessica Holmes was born and raised in Pender County located in Eastern North Carolina. When Holmes was in the third grade, an eye-opening trip to the U.S. Capitol set her on a career path of using the power of the law to help struggling working families like hers. Holmes earned her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Political Science in 2004 and a Juris Doctorate in 2009 at her alma mater. Throughout this period, Holmes worked with prominent faculty at the UNC Center for Civil Rights including its founding director, the late Julius Chambers, and Anita Earls, now a North Carolina Supreme Court justice.
After she passed the bar, Holmes joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice as a community organizer and traveled across North Carolina, building connections between the local needs of people in each community to state issues like redistricting and voting rights.
In 2012, Holmes began practicing law at the N.C. Association of Educators. She served on the board of A Helping Hand, a nonprofit that assists the elderly and disabled people, and was appointed to the board of the N.C. Foundation for Public School Children.
In 2014 at age 29, Jessica Holmes became the youngest commissioner ever elected in Wake County. In 2016, her colleagues voted to make her their chair, and Holmes was re-elected to office without opposition in 2018.
As a commissioner, Holmes fought in 2015 for a living wage for county employees and to increase funding for Wake County Public Schools, making it possible in 2019 for WCPSS to provide raises for school support staff, including a $15 an hour minimum wage for school bus drivers. She increased Wake County financial support for Smart Start so every low-income child could enroll in the early-childhood development program. To combat food insecurity, Holmes had food pantries opened in high schools with the highest poverty rates and helped school counselors assist families in accessing other county services so they can focus more on their children’s education.
Additionally, Holmes has been a leader in addressing the affordable housing crisis in Wake County, challenging county staff to come up with housing options for tenants evicted by unscrupulous landlords and securing $15 million to implement a plan to bring more affordable housing units on-line.
Furthermore, Holmes has worked to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices through an initiative called Ban the Box and pushed for a job-skills training program inside the Wake County Jail to help people who served their time re-enter the community as productive citizens.
The Labor Commissioner is tasked with promoting the “health, safety and general well-being” of workers throughout the state. Over the years, there have been a number of investigations into the North Carolina Department of Labor for failing to fulfill its mission including reports of wage theft going unaddressed, rampant worker misclassification, and repeated workplace injuries and fatalities.
In 2020, North Carolina citizens have the opportunity, in Jessica Holmes, to vote for someone who will be a true champion of working people as their next Commissioner of Labor. Her candidacy is grounded by her working class roots and in her vision of using the power of the law and of elected office to empower all people–black, white, and brown–to thrive at every stage of life. After years of neglect under Cherie Berry, Jessica Holmes is the fighter we need leading the North Carolina Department of Labor.
Learn more about Jessica’s campaign: https://jessicaholmesnc.com/.