Trying her best to sound like a Hallmark card, Rep. Virginia Foxx argued on a local North Carolina news station in favor of a bill that would end overtime pay for hourly workers as we know it: “It’s important to have enough money from your paycheck,” she told WFMY News, “but money can’t buy time. Many parents would like to have the time with their children.”
If you’re an hourly worker, scheduling is a huge issue. And while the idea of time off in lieu of time-and-a-half overtime pay sounds tempting, this bill does not resolve any problems you may have with your schedule. The bill clearly states that employers can deny requests for time off if it is not made “within a reasonable period” or if your time off “unduly disrupts the operations of the employer.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx is right about one thing: Many parents would like to have more time to spend with their children. But under the Orwellian-named “Working Families Flexibility Act,” your boss still decides when you can take that time and when you can’t. Meanwhile, he or she can work you 50 or 60 hours a week and pocket the overtime you would have otherwise received.
Yes, the option of overtime instead of comp time still remains. But there is nothing stopping your boss from treating you differently (giving you a bad schedule, straight-up firing you) if you take that option. “The worker shouldn’t have to have that sort of pressure on them,” said Catherine Medlock-Walton, our Member Coordinator in North Carolina.
So don’t be fooled by this talk of “family” and “children” from politicians like Rep. Foxx.
If they truly cared about our families, they wouldn’t block bills allowing workers to earn sick paid days, and take time off to care for a sick child.
If they truly cared about our families, they wouldn’t oppose increases in the minimum wage, so parents wouldn’t have to work two or three low-wage jobs in order to care for their children.
And if they truly cared about our families, they would not have voted 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which vastly improves the ability of parents and children alike to afford health insurance and not be denied for preexisting conditions.
There truly are pieces of legislation which would help working families have flexibility. Unfortunately, and confusingly, the so-called “Working Families Flexibility Act” is not one of them.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help.
On Thursday, Working America will kick off its 10th anniversary celebration by announcing plans to expand into all 50 states in five years as well as new efforts to organize workers at their workplaces.
“Every day, we talk to people struggling to support their families or piece together a living with their current jobs,” said Working America Executive Director Karen Nussbaum. “These are people who want to see changes in their communities or on the job. This expansion allows working people to make a difference in new states and communities.”
On Thursday, Working America will host a “50 in 5” launch event, featuring AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney, American Bridge 21st Century President Rodell Mollineau, U.S. Sens. Al Franken, Tim Kaine, Martin Heinrich, Bernie Sanders and other guests.
As Working America expands nationally, it will continue its year-round community organizing and electoral and legislative work, as well as pilot different methods of organizing workers on the job. Those models and tactics include a workplace organizing site launching in May called fixmyjob.com.
Currently, Working America is in a dozen states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan and Oregon. It recently opened offices in Texas and North Carolina.
“Working America is an example of the way the AFL-CIO’s door has to be—and will be—open to any worker or group of workers who want to organize and build power,” said Trumka. “Its expansion into 50 states means that every week, at front doors, workplaces and community gatherings all over America, thousands of people can build power locally.”
“Working America’s impact has already been felt here in Texas,” said Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council. “It brings an entirely new outreach dynamic to our labor movement in Houston, and it will do the same in all the communities it expands into.”
1. Air Force base jobs lost in Tullahoma, Tenn.—The Aerospace Testing Alliance announced it is cutting 128 of 1,809 civilian jobs at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma starting April 19. It also has put in place a 20% pay cut and weekly furloughs for workers at a research facility. [Link]
2. Loss of jobs in Rock Island, Ill.—The U.S. Army garrison, Rock Island Arsenal, announced it is firing 175 employees, 44 of whom are temporary workers, 131 of whom will see their jobs unrenewed when their terms expire. [Link]
3. Medical response times lengthened in central Nebraska—Medical responders have had response times lengthened because of the closing of a control tower at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport. [Link]
4. Food pantry closed in Murray, Utah—The Salt Lake Community Action Program closed its food pantry, one of five locations that serve more than 1,000 people every month. Executive Director Cathy Hoskins told The Huffington Post that in addition to the closure, the organization has stopped paying into employees’ retirement plans, won’t fill an open job and told some staffers to take a week’s unpaid leave. “I’ve had one person retire, we’re not replacing them. We’re not doing any hiring at all,” Hoskins said. “We’re trying very hard to boost our volunteers, but this is hard work working in a pantry. And if you get a volunteer, usually it’s a short-term volunteer because it’s just very, very difficult work…. No raises, no increases, none of that stuff. We’re cutting everything we possibly can.” [Link]
5. Research employees lost in Durham, N.C.—The Duke Clinical Research Institute is planning to “downsize” 50 employees. [Link]
6. Contractor jobs lost in southwest Oklahoma—Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ Lawton, Okla., site issued 26 layoff notices. The defense contractor CGI is anticipating that sequestration would affect 270 workers at its Lawton site. [Link]
7. Health care jobs cut in Hampton Roads, Va.—Officials at Hampton Roads Planning District Commission announced that 1,600 jobs in the region’s health care sector would disappear. “It won’t be job cuts,” said James A. Clary, an economist with the group. “It will be not filling the positions.” [Link]
8. Health care workers laid off in Saranac Lake, N.Y.—Adirondack Health, a medical center at Lake Placid, announced it was laying off 18 workers after firing 17 in December. [Link]
9. Rehabilitation center for Native Americans closed in Sitka, Alaska—The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced that on April 30, it is closing the Bill Brady Healing Center, a residential drug and alcohol treatment center for Alaska Natives. Michael Jenkins, communications director, said the approximately 20 people who work there will be transferred to other positions in the organization, furloughed or fired. “For the most part, because of our location here in Southeast, alcohol and drug abuse has a very high incidence. So taking this away is going to make it difficult,” he said. [Link]
10. Education jobs lost in Sioux City, Iowa—The Iowa Early Intervention education program is bracing for the loss of 11 teaching positions, while the Sioux City Community School Board is looking at potentially 30 staff positions being eliminated. [Link]
Remember, the sequester is a completely made-up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 people will lose their jobs because of the sequester.
Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.
The Senate committee in charge of the issue, the Revenue Laws Study Committee, voted to move the proposal forward on Tuesday. It will come to the General Assembly for a vote when they reconvene on January 30.
The proposal cuts the weekly maximum benefit by 35 percent, (even though the statewide average benefit is much less). It also reduces the number of benefit to a sliding scale between 12 and 20 weeks, even though the average length of unemployment is at an all-time high of 40 weeks.
“No state has ever cut their maximum benefit so severely,” said George Wentworth, senior attorney at the National Employment Law Project. Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center called it “one of the most radical, if not the most radical [unemployment] proposals in the country.”
Republican legislators say the cuts are needed to retire North Carolina’s $2.4 billion debt to the federal government. But if North Carolina employers paid unemployment taxes at roughly the national average, there would be no debt – and no need for cuts. Despite claims that the plan is “balanced,” the responsibility for paying down this debt falls almost completely on unemployed workers, the majority of whom lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
The real reason legislators are pushing this plan? They are doing the bidding of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, the state arm of the national right-wing lobbying group. The Chamber cooked the plan up last year, and their political action committee donated to the campaigns of 17 out of the 20 members of the Revenue Laws Study Committee.
The most absurd moment of the public comment period came when the lobbyist for the N.C. Chamber of Commerce addressed the committee to praise the plan, a plan that he helped write in the backrooms over the last few weeks. Funny he didn’t mention the secret meetings in his remarks.
Contrary to what has been said by some of our lawmakers, the proposed changes to our insurance system are dramatically out of line with our neighboring states, and would in fact move North Carolina toward the bottom of state rankings.
Here are more details of the proposal in question, via the News-Observer.
Thankfully, earlier this week Congress fulfilled its (minimum) obligation to the long-term unemployed by passing an extension of federal unemployment benefits as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal.
But while that drama in Washington, D.C. comes to a close – for now – Republican legislators in North Carolina and their well-funded backers have a plan to drastically cut unemployment insurance for thousands of Tarheel families.
The proposal, first revealed in early December, would cut weekly benefit checks from $506 to $350. The benefit periods would be limited from 26 weeks to a sliding scale between 12 and 20 weeks. These changes constitute an overhaul of the state’s whole unemployment system:
“This is probably one of the most radical, if not the most radical, proposals in the country,” said Bill Rowe, advocacy director for the N.C. Justice Center, a Raleigh-based nonprofit.
The plan is similar to recommendations made by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, who, not at all coincidentally, contributed to the campaigns of 17 out of 20 members of the legislative committee that produced the plan, according to IndyWeek.
But regardless of why Republican legislators are proposing these cuts, that fact remains that they would be devastating to families in North Carolina, where the unemployment rate is already above the national average of 9.1 percent.
Even at the current 26 weeks, unemployment benefits aren’t nearly sufficient. As of November 2012, the average length of unemployment in the United States was 40 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the longest average unemployment length in the 60 years the BLS has been recording data.
And those statistics translate into real pain for families, even without the cuts Republicans are proposing. 1 in 10 children in North Carolina lived with a parent who was unemployed this past year. 118,000 children in the state lived with parents who were unemployed for six months or more.
MaryBe McMillan, secretary for the state chapter of AFL-CIO, says when the economy was booming in the late ’90s, employers got a tax break. “And now they want to rebuild the fund on the backs of workers,” she says. “I think that’s dead wrong.”
Unemployment benefits do not only provide crucial assistance to those most in need. They also constitute a stimulus to the local economy, as unemployed workers use the benefits as soon as they come in to pay bills, fill up their gas tanks, shop for groceries, and make the necessary purchases to keep themselves and their families afloat. Taking a chunk of that money away, as Republicans legislators are proposing, only serves to hurt North Carolina’s recovering economy.
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.
With 16,000 members and growing, Working America is ready to make an impact in the 2012 elections for North Carolina working families.
A story in The Nation by Ari Berman details the political dynamics of North Carolina, and asks if President Obama can win the state like he did in 2012. While that’s difficult to predict, one thing is clear: North Carolinans are tired of corporations getting tax breaks to send their jobs offshore, and they are tired of politicians who campaigned on job creation but then ignored the state’s jobs crisis once in office.
There’s no question that Mitt Romney and his fellow partisans fit that bill: Mitt Romney, the Republican standard-bearer for President, is no stranger to outsourcing. And Republican Senator Richard Burr voted just this past July to filibuster (or, “avoid talking about”) the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would’ve ended those tax break for companies who move jobs overseas. (The other North Carolina Senator, Democrat Kay Hagan, strongly supported the bill.)
Berman tagged along with one of our canvassers one evening:
Working America signs up “working-class moderates” who don’t have a union job but respond favorably to a populist economic message. Organizers do this the old-fashioned way: knocking on door after door…
We talked to housewives, truck drivers, teachers, cashiers, construction workers and nurses. Jobs and healthcare were the main concerns. Brandon [the canvasser] told them about the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would end tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas. “We’re out here today to keep good jobs in North Carolina, not send them abroad,” he said during his pitch. The issue of outsourcing could play a decisive role in the campaign. “North Carolinians are folks who have read over and over and over again about their textile jobs and other manufacturing jobs going overseas,” Farinella says. “So it is my expectation that this issue of Romney’s role in Bain Capital—and the notion that Bain shipped jobs overseas—is likely to resonate in North Carolina to a greater extent than it even resonates nationally.”
Since the beginning of the year, Working America in North Carolina has swelled to over 16,000 members. We’re going to be pounding the pavement, educating voters about how their politicians have acted – or not acted – to get folks employed and keep jobs from leaving the country.
To get involved with Working America in North Carolina, sign up here or call our Greensboro office at (336) 288-4970.
The residents of the Triad in North Carolina got some good news earlier this summer: Ralph Lauren plans to expand its operation in High Point, NC with a $142 million investment that could put as many as 500 people to work.
The devil, however, is in the details:
The company was offered a grant of up to $500,000 from the state’s One North Carolina Fund for the expansion and a Job Development Investment Grant that could be worth $2.5 million. Guilford County offered the company a $1.5 million incentive package and High Point offered $2 million in incentives.
Will all those incentives pay off? It’s certainly possible, but it reminds us of another side of Ralph Lauren, that of aggressive outsourcer. Many Americans were outraged to discover that the uniforms Ralph Lauren made for the U.S. Olympic Team were manufactured in China.
Had the Bring Jobs Home Act become law, the calculus for a company like Ralph Lauren would be quite different. The tax code wouldn’t favor sending those jobs offshore, and the incentives for “insourcing” would’ve taken pressure off of North Carolina’s cash-strapped communities, who in this case had to pony up millions in incentives by themselves.
This is a big deal for the Tarheel State. Since 1994, North Carolina has lost 46.2 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Working America member and High Point resident Patricia McKinney wrote to the Greensboro News-Record that while the Ralph Lauren expansion is a welcome step, it’s only a baby step in the right direction:
Regarding Ralph Lauren’s $142 million expansion in High Point: It is great that Ralph Lauren is investing more in High Point, but this is only a start in returning jobs to the area.
Jobs are scarce in High Point. The few postings there involve specific skills that many people lack. There are jobs in Greensboro and Charlotte, but many individuals don’t have resources, like gas, to get to them. More industries, like Ralph Lauren, should invest in High Point to get people back on their feet. We should not outsource furniture and textile jobs anymore. Too many people are jobless.
More companies should be given tax incentives to come back here. High Point residents cannot get back to work unless companies return to the area.
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.