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Union members lobby lawmakers on raising wages

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Working families unveil “A Working People’s Agenda” at two-day 2015 Labor Legislative Conference

Union members from across the state came to Raleigh this week for the rollout of “A Working People’s” legislative agenda (Read it: at our biennial labor legislative conference and lobby day. Labor’s legislative agenda of raising wages in order to achieve shared prosperity for all includes proposals for state lawmakers that would create good jobs, strengthen the safety net, and protect workers and consumers from predatory business practices.

See pictures from the 2015 LLC.

During lobby visits on Tuesday, AFL-CIO members focused on the problem of worker misclassification, a scandal exposed by the News & Observer’s “Contract to Cheat” reporting last year that cheats workers out of their wages and cheats North Carolina out of $467 million a year in uncollected taxes. Union members urged their lawmakers to pass legislation that will truly hold cheating employers liable so that violating the law will be more costly than obeying the law.

“We have adopted an agenda that addresses the most fundamental need of North Carolina’s workers: the need to earn enough to provide for ourselves and our families,” said state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan. “All the issues we care about can be tied together under the framework of raising wages.”

Raising wages means good jobs, strong workplace protections, and an adequate safety net. It means creating an economic system where everyone prospers. “After all, if workers were fully employed and earned decent wages, consumer spending would increase and tax revenue would rise for all levels of government,” said James Andrews, state AFL-CIO President. “What’s good for workers is good for all of us.”

Spotlight on Fight for $15 and our "Friend of Workers"

On Tuesday evening, LLC participants and members of the North Carolina General Assembly broke bread together at our biennial Friend of Workers Award dinner, this year honoring Rep. Garland Pierce and featuring testimonials by homecare workers who have joined fast food workers and adjunct university faculty in the Fight for $15 and a union.

During his acceptance speech, Rep. Pierce, himself a former Teamster, praised the union movement for bringing hope in desperate times to the hard-working, underpaid and underappreciated people of North Carolina. "The union is the best thing that ever happened to the South," Rep. Pierce said.

"The union is the best thing that ever happened to the South." Rep. Garland Pierce, our Friend of Workers.

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) February 11, 2015

After the screening of twovideos about North Carolina workers in the Fight for $15, two home health care workers, Heidy Porro and Jarmyn Farrington, testified to their experience working in an industry that expects much in exchange for poverty level wages.

Powerful testimony by homecare workers at about the #FightFor15. "My kids deserve no less than any other." — NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) February 11, 2015

"Folks, workers like Heidy and Jarmyn take care of our parents, and grandparents," said MaryBe McMillan. "They take care of the people we love, but they don’t even earn enough to take care of themselves. That’s shameful and it’s why the fight for $15 is a fight for all of us."

Rachel Eitzen with Teamsters Local 391, which represents thousands of school bus drivers and other classified school employees, also spoke about the need to do better by public employees by raising wages and ending the ban on collective bargaining in the public sector. "Some of the lowest paid public employees are the ones we depend upon to drive our kids safely to and from school," said Eitzen.

Lowest paid public employees are the ones we depend on to drive our kids to school.

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) February 11, 2015

Download your copy of our 2015-16 legislative agenda, and use it to lobby your state lawmakers for raising wages!