“Moral Monday” Spreads Across North Carolina

Since the end of April, Moral Monday protests have occurred every Monday in front of the state legislature in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Moral Monday rallies have gathered thousands of supporters, and over 900 have been arrested through civil disobedience actions. These massive protests have been centered on issues of economic justice and basic fairness—cuts unemployment benefits, the failure to extending Medicaid for 500,000 uninsured people, cuts to public school funding, voter suppression, and other issues.

This Moral Monday protests have begun to spread across our state. This past Monday, in conjunction with the Raleigh protest, a Moral Monday march was organized in Greensboro. Since many people couldn’t travel to Raleigh to voice their support, activists organized a Greensboro Moral Monday rally to focus on voter ID laws and looming cuts to early voting.

Over 200 people marched and chanted, toted signs saying “Save Early Voting,” “Voter ID = Voter Suppression,” and “Keep Sunday Voting”.

“I thought it was wonderful,” said Working America member Carol Tweede, who attended. “Turnout was more than I ever expected. I feel very happy at these demonstrations, because everyone pulls together. It’s one great big body of people trying to help each other. It is so inclusive and nice to be around people who believe the same way you do, the right way.”

Across North Carolina, folks are standing up against the right-wing state legislature, not just in Raleigh.

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Standing Up for North Carolina Schools

Joyce, a Working America member, is from Greensboro.

Here in North Carolina, a very regressive Republican-controlled legislature has proposed big changes in our public education system. Their plan could result in our state having the most extensive voucher program in the nation, up to $50 million in public tax dollars for vouchers over a 2 year period.

In addition to this, the legislature wants to cut back on money spent for teacher assistants, textbooks, and technology. It’s a double whammy: the legislature’s plan will end up privatizing and weakening our public schools.

Our state needs just the opposite – it needs a strong public education system that is fully integrated, with each classroom having a diverse pool of students to reflect our state’s diverse population—and every school having the steady funding it needs.

I’m not going to sit back and let it happen. As a Working America member, I took action. I led a forum at my church on the proposed changes to NC’s school vouchers and charter school program. I helped circulate petitions on public education. I wrote a letter to the editor to my local newspaper and I called the office of my state senator to express my views.

Your voice can make a difference, too.If you live in North Carolina, please contact your state senator and state house representative about these public education issues.

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They’re Not Only Expanding Corporate-Run Schools, They Are Making Them Less Accountable

Working America members are in the midst of a fight to protect public education in North Carolina.

Since 2011, the state’s public school budget has been cut by $450 million, leading to overcrowded classrooms and outdated textbooks. Now the state legislature wants to continue weakening our public schools through the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs.

Both charters and vouchers take public money to send children to private and sometimes for-profit corporate-run institutions. These corporate run schools have little accountability, and make large profits by underpaying teachers.

Do we really want corporations teaching our students – and using tax-payer money to do so?

Working America member Joyce Mers is taking a stand against privatizing education. Joyce organized a church forum to discuss issues surrounding public education and promoted the event though her church newsletter. She even enlisted the help of education policy expert Dot Kearns to answer questions.

When discussing the immediate threats to public schools, Joyce referenced a bill that would restructure the oversight of charter schools. Under the proposal, charter schools would no longer be held accountable to the State Board of Education, which oversees all K-12 public schools.  Rather, charter schools would have a separate board, whose members would be appointed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the legislature. The bill also has provisions to eliminate certain charter school requirements.

“Right now only 50 percent of teachers in charter schools are required to have a teacher’s license and this bill would do away with that requirement completely,” said Joyce, “Also, the schools would not be required to perform a background check, which just doesn’t make sense to me – especially when there is a bill in the legislature trying to put armed guards in schools.”

Under this proposal, corporations have even more power to use taxpayer money to create and oversee charter schools.

When discussing public school funding, both Joyce and Dot noted that despite past cuts, student performance is high. “It’s a popular thing now to say everything is failing, but that just is not the case,” said Dot. She then cited the increase in North Carolina’s graduation rates. However, it will become difficult to maintain this success if more charters and vouchers drain public education resources and are held to different accountability standards.

The forum ended with Joyce collecting a dozen petition signatures from the group, which urge Governor McCrory to protect public school funding.  But we need to continue this pressure. Our state needs to fully invest in public schools. If you’re in North Carolina, email me at cmedlock-walton@workingamerica.org to find out how you can help.

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Working America Members Stand Up to Cuts in North Carolina

The Republican-controlled legislature is kicking off their session by proposing a bill that would drastically slash unemployment benefits. The GOP wants to cut the maximum benefits unemployed workers can receive by one-third, the most severe cut any state has ever proposed. The maximum benefits received would be cut by $175, from $525 to $350 per week. Also the amount of time workers can stay on the state’s unemployment benefits would be reduced from 26 weeks, to a sliding scale from 12 to 20 weeks, based upon the state’s unemployment rate.

Unemployment benefits are received by workers who lost their job due to no fault of their own. Benefits help workers stay afloat, while allowing them to still contribute to the local economy. It is a win-win situation – but apparently our state legislators do not see it this way.

Right now, North Carolina is about $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government. Since 2009, there have been temporary taxes on corporations to pay back this debt. Under the current system, the debt will be paid back by 2018. GOP legislators argue that if benefits are cut, the debt will be paid back sooner.

No matter what, the federal government will get their money back. They are not asking for this process to be expedited. Yet our state legislators see this small temporary tax on businesses to be a burden.    The temporary taxes are only $21 per employee each year, which will not break the bank for major corporations.

If workers benefits are cut by $175 per week, they are going to be the ones burdened. $175 can be the difference between paying for rent, heat, buying groceries – or not. If this legislation goes through, workers will be sacrificing more while corporations get tax breaks.

Our members have been writing letters to their legislators and also letters to the editors. In a published letter to the editor on the effect of cutting unemployment benefits, Working America member Norma Marshall states:

“The result will be more people who are unable to pay rent and mortgages, or feed and care for their children. It will lead to more misery and economic strife for the unemployed.”

Newly elected Republican Governor Pat McCrory has not stated whether or not he supports this plan.  Gov. McCrory needs to hear from you! Working America and our allies are asking Gov. McCrory to put his money where his mouth is and live off of $350 per week. Please tell Gov. McCrory and tell him that you support the challenge and want him to protect unemployment benefits.

With our state unemployment rate still over 9 percent, now is not the time to cut benefits.

North Carolina Workers Hold Senator Burr Accountable for Supporting Outsourcing

Throughout August, the Working America Greensboro office has been working hard to hold North Carolina Sensators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr accountable for their recent votes on outsourcing and middle-class tax cuts.

Over the past few weeks, Working America has gathered more than 400 petition signatures urging Senator Burr to stop supporting companies that outsource jobs and to call for an end to tax breaks for the richest 2 percent of Americans.

Working America member Sarah Baldwin describes why outsourcing is detrimental to North Carolina: “High Point has been hit hard by outsourcing, affecting many workers. With loss jobs, people loss income, health care coverage and sometimes even their homes. Senator Burr’s vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act shows he is not looking out for the average person.”

Added Scott Gillentine of Winston-Salem: “North Carolina has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. Please explain to me, Senator Burr, why there are tax cuts on the wealthy when so few jobs have been created by them?”

Yesterday, Working America teamed up with the AFL-CIO and progressive allies to deliver the petitions to Senator Burr’s office. Everyone was excited to collaborate and to ensure that Senator Burr looks out for the interest of his middle class constituents.

Earlier in the day, Senator Kay Hagan received thank you letters from working families expressing their gratitude for her votes to end outsourcing and end tax subsidies for the richest Americans.

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Fighting to Bring Jobs Back Home to North Carolina

Working America members in Greensboro, North Carolina are working hard to bring jobs back to the United States. Over the past decade, many North Carolinians have witnessed the outsourcing of furniture and textile jobs to China, Mexico, India, and other countries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46.2% of North Carolina’s manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1994.

Currently companies receive tax breaks to ship their industries overseas. This tax break needs to end and the reverse to happen to impact workers here in the United States. Companies should be given tax incentives to bring their industries back to the United States. With the North Carolina unemployment rate over 9%, jobs need to be brought back to the United States.

If the Senate passed the Bring Jobs Home Act, we could get back to work. We’ve worked hard to make that a reality—and the fight isn’t over.

Last Thursday, Working America presented Senator Hagan’s aides over 150 hand written letters collected over the last two weeks from members of Working America. These letters illuminate why the Bring Jobs Home act is so important.

“I am currently unemployed and I also run a small business from the months of January through April,” said Evette Lattimore, a Working America member. “My son and I are actively looking for work, but have found limited success. Jobs need to come back to North Carolina. Please vote yes on the Bring Jobs Home Act.”

The aides were excited to receive the letters and to hear our thoughts on the Bring Jobs Home Act.

The effects of outsourcing are seen nationwide, not just in North Carolina. We’re pleased to see that Senator Hagan voted the right way yesterday, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure our leaders are looking out for our jobs.

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In North Carolina, Working America Stands Up for the Unemployed

In the midst of a terrible jobs crisis, there are those in North Carolina who seek to cut assistance for those who have lost their jobs. That’s just plain wrong.

Currently, North Carolina’s Chamber of Commerce seeks to restrict unemployment benefits by reducing the maximum weekly income from $506 to $350. In addition to the monetary cut, the time allowed to receive benefits could be reduced from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

The average length of unemployment as of May 2012 was 39.7 weeksthe highest the Labor Department has seen since they started measuring in 1948.

These cuts will drastically affect North Carolinian families. With the state unemployment rate exceeding 9 percent for the past few months, restrictions on unemployment benefits is the last thing we need. Unemployment benefits greatly assist workers who lost jobs to no fault of their own. These benefits help workers stay afloat as they search for new jobs. The restriction of unemployment benefits will devastate hundreds of thousands of families who are actively looking for work.

The Greensboro Working America office has been actively fighting to keep unemployment benefits intact. Over the past few months, have canvassers gathered hand written letters from members to their legislators with personal statements about why unemployment benefits are crucial to sustaining families and encouraged legislators to not restrict these benefits:

“I’m writing this letter to ask you not to discontinue the unemployment benefits. My job was downsized due to sending jobs to Mexico. We need the benefits and the jobs.”

“I believe that it’s sad that the unemployment rate is so high. I have family members who have tried time after time to find a job to support their family.”

“I’ve been on unemployment myself and it helps out immensely in LOOKING for another job.”

“I understand the benefits of unemployment – as I have family members who depend on its benefits. We need to focus on more relevant issues such as education and keeping licensed teachers in the classroom”

Last week more than 400 letters were delivered to senators and representatives in Raleigh. All of the legislators were excited to receive the letters and encouraged to learn more about Working America’s presence in the Triad.

The letters delivered are an excellent start in maintaining NC’s unemployment benefits, but legislators need to hear more from constituents. Call or write your legislators, and tell them to keep unemployment benefits the way they are. Find out who represents you here.