October 16, 2015
Wage theft just the latest FAIL by Cherie Berry
Can you believe this person is a Labor Commissioner?
The News & Observer has been reporting all week about Cherie Berry, “The Reluctant Regulator” who serves as Labor Commissioner in North Carolina and who, last year alone, let deadbeat employers get away with stealing $1 million in wages, helping to ruin the lives of 617 workers, a colossal failure for the person elected to protect them from wage theft, among other duties.
Read News & Observer’s 4-part series about Cherie Berry, “The Reluctant Regulator”.
Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has been the subject of several critical investigations into her leadership of the North Carolina Department of Labor over the last 15 years.
In 2008, the Charlotte Observer uncovered a pattern of NCDOL reducing fines for health and safety violations at companies whose executives donated to her election campaign.
Also in 2008, the Charlotte Observer looked into dangerous working conditions at North Carolina poultry plants and found inspections of those plants plummeted once Cherie Berry took over at NCDOL. When, as a result of that investigation, lawmakers increased funding to add four new safety inspectors at NCDOL, Cherie Berry responded by saying they weren’t going to change anything.
During that same investigation, Charlotte Observer also found NCDOL failed to enforce North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, passed after the 1991 Hamlet chicken fire to shield workers from retaliation if they report dangerous working conditions. By 2008, Berry hadn’t sued to get a worker reinstated in 7 years, and of the 800 workers a year who sought protection under the law, only 1 percent got their jobs back.
Read the Charlotte Observer editorial, N.C.’s Labor Commissioner fails the workers she should protect.
In 2010, an audit by the federal Department of Labor found NCDOL under Cherie Berry was downplaying the severity of OSHA violations.
Last year the News & Observer blew the lid off a huge scandal involving crooked employers who, to get an unfair advantage over their honest competition, cheat their own workers out of insurance and overtime pay and cheat taxpayers out of $467 million a year in lost revenue by classifying employees as independent contractors. Despite that her office has the power to intervene in worker misclassification cases resulting in unpaid overtime, Cherie Berry refused to comment.
Earlier this year, the Mandy Locke discovered that dozens of dead workers literally didn’t count to their own labor commissioner, whose NCDOL has been undercounting the number of workers who die on the job in North Carolina every year.
In a follow-up to that reporting, Mandy Locke also discovered that Cherie Berry had failed to seek outside health and safety advice for five years – a clear violation of state law, which required her to convene the OSHA Advisory Council twice a year.
But wait, there’s more
The results of many investigations by the media and by federal regulators are not the only sign Cherie Berry is not up to the job of being Labor Commissioner.
Cherie Berry is on record as wanting to abolish the minimum wage.
Cherie Berry refused to support efforts to end child labor on North Carolina farms.
Clearly Cherie Berry is more interested in having the job of Labor Commissioner than actually doing it.
Berry actually told the News & Observer she ran for Labor Commissioner because she didn’t like the attitude of a OSHA inspector who showed up at her spark plug plant after “an employee’s stomach was punctured by a piece of machinery she said was operated without a safety guard”.
As the New & Observer editorial board put it after “The Reluctant Regulator” series, “Simply, Cherie Berry is a labor commissioner who cares very little about labor.”
I have experienced similar response from the NCDOL, with my unpaid wages claim against my previous employer, CMC Enterprises Inc. dba The Clarks Group, Winston Salem, NC. I voluntarily separated, due agreed upon commission and bonus wages from the employer. Upon my follow up, the employer denied any agreement, as the employer had not provided written contracts as NC General Statutes dictate. Despite a copious amount of documentation and plausible evidence i provided the NCDOL, they determined my claim “unsubstantiated”. The investigator never spoke with during the entire investigation, until notifying me of the final determination. I conveyed there are precise emails and previous payroll receipts indicating the established practice for the wages etc. but the NCDOL, merely disregards my concerns and points of fact, parroting “file claim with small claims court”. Doesn’t the small claims court adhere to the very same statutes and wage laws as the NCDOL? I have written to officials at the NCDOL and state representatives, with no success. If 10 minutes were taken to genuinely examine my claim, the mater would palpably be clarified. Apparently my wages, and my problem,not generating enough notoriety. However, if it happened to me, if begs to question how many others? I am extremely disconcerted with the NCDOL’s investigation and response to the truth of the matter regarding my unpaid wages. I agree, it is another “FAIL” for the labor commissioner’s office. It results in an severe lack of confidence in an agency that is mandated to protect the employee’s rights, especially when they are identifiable present.
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