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Coalition seeks to preserve workers' rights in UNC system

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Senate Bill 575 would remove them from State Personnel Act

The Coalition for Workplace Democracy, a statewide coalition of students, staff, faculty, and community members - including the NC State AFL-CIO and Triad and Triangle Labor Councils - delivered a letter to UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp this week, asking him to take a public stand against Senate Bill 575.

If passed when the legislature returns in May, SB 575 would take away the protections of the State Personnel Act for the 22,000 workers in the University of North Carolina system. Instead, the UNC Board of Governors would get to set health and disability benefits, wages, grievance policies, disciplinary measures, and human resources policies.

"If SB 575 is passed and the Board of Governors is given sole and complete authority to determine the parameters of employment for UNC System employees," the letter says, "there would be no higher authority, no external, objective system of checks and balances to catch possible or actual abuses of power."

"By removing university workers across the state from legal protections for redress they now have under the State Personnel Act, SB 575 will perpetuate a work environment where employees fear retaliation if they speak out against poor working conditions, effectively silencing worker voices."

UNC says the system would be more efficient under its control and plans to adopt guidelines for new policies. Those guidelines will not have the force of law that the State Personnel Act has, and there's the rub.

“When that board turns over there’s no guarantee that benevolence will continue,” said Harry Phillips of Triangle Jobs with Justice to the News & Observer.

Rally against SB 575 set for April 4

The Coalition for Workplace Democracy will hold a teach-in/speak-out about the anti-labor legislation, SB 575, on Wednesday, April 4 at 4:30 pm on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

"We chose this day because it is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis when he was standing up for the rights of Sanitation Workers.  We are now continuing the struggle for workers rights and economic justice.  Bring friends and allies to this event," said Jacob Lerner of coalition member, Student Action with Workers.

What: Teach-in and Speak-out about SB 575
When: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm
Where: On the steps of the South Building, UNC-Chapel Hill, 180 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Why: SB 575 is proposed legislation that will strip 22,000 University workers across North Carolina of fundamental legal protections currently guaranteed under the State Personnel Act.

"This is our livelihood," UNC-CH worker Mary Farrar said. "It’s bad enough not to have a raise in five years but with this bill they can get rid of us anytime, for no reason."

For more information about the April 4 action, check out or contact Griffin Bur at 913-579 1164 or [email protected].

4 ways you can help stop SB 575

  1. Check out and share the website - - for ongoing updates of news coverage and calls to action.
  2. Tweet at Holden Thorp (@chanthorp) about SB 575 and ask him to publicly respond to the letter.
  3. Come to the teach-in/ speak out event on the steps of South Building on Wednesday, April 4 at 4:30 PM.
  4. Write a letter to the editor against SB 575.