Putting foxes in charge of agencies meant to protect workers
Op-ed exposes how changes to Industrial Commission imperil workers
Eladio Bobadilla is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Duke University whose Point of View column published this week by the News & Observer serves as an alarm call to the subtle-yet-significant ways Governor McCrory and the extremists who run the North Carolina General Assembly are discarding over eighty years of precedent to stack the deck for bosses and against workers.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission is not the type of organization that receives front-page headlines or the attention of large-scale protests, but it is an essential organization that ensures that North Carolina’s workers and their loved ones are protected if they are hurt (or even killed) due to a work-related incident.
As Bobadilla explains, the law requires the six-member Industrial Commission, which adjudicates workers' compensation cases, to be balanced with three pro-business members and three pro-labor members. "But Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent appointment of controversial, far-right former pundit Charlton L. Allen upset this balance," Bobadilla points out:
Allen is on the record opposing minimum wage and collective bargaining rights as well as paid sick leave and lunch breaks. After the Independent Weekly reported on Allen’s leadership of a right-wing college publication and challenged his “racially dubious past,” a handful of concerned lawmakers invited the candidate to “clear the air.” When he did not, Sen. Floyd McKissick said he was left with “deep, deep concern.”
But wait - there's sadly more:
The governor’s appointment of Allen, an avowed opponent of policies fundamental to workers’ well-being, is just one reason for concern. Another is the General Assembly’s efforts to remove all 22 deputy commissioners from their jobs, all while stripping the protections afforded to them by the State Personnel Act. The threat is clear: Politics and the distinct possibility of retribution would endanger the deputies’ independence. Their decisions might no longer be primarily about fairness, but about pleasing their philosophically skewed bosses.
While Moral Monday protests have focused on the more high-profile parts of the immoral agenda coming out of Raleigh - including "regressive taxation, voter suppression laws, the refusal to expand Medicaid, cruel state budgets," and, we would add, cruel cuts to unemployment benefits - Bobadilla says protesters "should demand respect for the [Industrial] commission and for judicial integrity."
Otherwise, all we will have left of worker protections will be distant memories.