NC JUSTICE NEWS: Extend Unemployment Insurance + Wage Theft + Truth & Hope Tour of Poverty

January 10, 2012

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Lawmakers must act to protect workers

State and federal lawmakers are threatening to cut the unemployment insurance system at a time when workers need it most.

This is particularly troubling when North Carolina’s unemployment remains one of the highest rates in the country. The state has a jobs shortfall of over 500,000, with more than 460,000 unemployed workers in the state and more than 4 workers for every available job.

The unemployment insurance system is a crucial lifeline – and not just for those without jobs. The system bolsters workers’ communities and the local and state economy as well. It aids jobless workers so that they can provide for their families, and helps support modest consumer spending, keeping up demand for goods and services. 3.2 million Americans were kept out of poverty in 2010 because of unemployment insurance.

Last month, the NC Justice Center launched a campaign in an effort to protect the unemployment insurance system in North Carolina entitled “I Am a Tar Heel Worker.” The campaign website, www.tarheelworkers.org, calls for policymakers to extend the emergency and federally funded provision of unemployment insurance through at least 2012, ensuring much-needed support for out-of-work North Carolinians and the state’s struggling economy.

For more information about unemployment insurance and how you can take action, visit www.tarheelworkers.org and share the link with your friends and family. If you are one of the thousands of unemployed workers in North Carolina, visit the Share Your Story page to tell us about your experiences and challenges. Your voice should be heard by our state leaders. Follow Tar Heel Workers on twitter: @tarheelworkers.

TRUTH & HOPE TOUR OF POVERTY: Shedding light on NC poverty

North Carolinians are facing a dark age when it comes to poverty. The poverty rate jumped nearly 25 percent between 2001 and 2010, with massive drops in median household income. This resulted in essentially a “lost decade” for many North Carolina families, where their hardship either increased or remained the same over a shocking 10-year period. In 2010, nearly 1 in 5 North Carolinians were living in poverty, with children and minorities being hit the hardest – 1 in 4 African-Americans and 1 in 3 Latinos lived in poverty, and more than 40 percent of both groups’ children grew up living in poverty.

It’s time to shed light on these communities and the harsh conditions of poverty throughout North Carolina. On Thursday, January 19, the North Carolina NAACP, NC Justice Center, and NC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity will begin the first leg of the “Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina,” a state-wide tour of rural counties and inner city neighborhoods where North Carolinians have struggled to find work, decent housing, transportation, and sufficient food for their families.

The first leg of the state-wide tour will move through the northeast quadrant of the state on January 19 and 20. A bus full of activists, reporters, foundation leaders, scholars, and people directly affected by poverty will participate in Town Hall meetings in various towns and cities.

Stay tuned for more details and a complete schedule of the tour’s destinations.

ECONOMIC INCENTIVES: Reforms could help create stable jobs

North Carolina is in great need of stable, quality jobs for its workers. One of the best ways to create such jobs is by reforming our state’s economic development incentive policies.

A new NC Budget & Tax Center report shows that such reforms have never been more relevant or important, given the state’s high unemployment rate and the high-profile failure to recruit a Continental Tire facility to the state in September. North Carolina could -- and should -- make the most of these challenges by refocusing economic development policies towards creating stable jobs for North Carolinians.

How would they do this? There are several ways. First of all, lawmakers could target taxpayer-funded incentives to recruit new firms and retain existing ones in industries that are stable, growing, and pay a decent wage to their workers. Growing businesses are most likely to hire additional workers within the state, as opposed to declining industries that would be more likely to experience plant shutdowns, widespread outsourcing, mass layoffs, wage cuts, and other affronts to their workers.

Policymakers could also:

  • Target incentives toward industries with higher-wage occupations
  • Extend existing performance criteria to all other incentive deals, including those offered by local communities and those approved by the legislature.
  • Improve monitoring and transparency of incentive contracts and firm performance.

North Carolina needs to promote a job-creation process that is held accountable to its workers, and reforming the state's economic incentive policies is a step in the right direction.

WAGE THEFT: Workers, communities lost millions in 2011

A new report shows that it’s often workers already earning a low-wage who are most likely to fall victim to wage theft, a rampant issue across North Carolina that not only affects individuals but entire communities as well.

The NC Justice Center brief reported that documented wage theft cost workers and their communities an estimated $4.7 million last year. Lost wages lead to tremendous struggles for workers and their families, but the less money workers have to spend on every day items, the less demand there will be for local good and services. Wage theft creates a domino effect of destruction, as the decline in tax revenue for state and local government means there are fewer available resources to invest in our economic recovery at a time when such revenue is desperately needed.

Disturbingly, the report finds that workers in low-wage jobs are more likely to experience wage theft than higher-wage workers. In addition, industries with the highest incidence of wage theft, such as retail and home health-care services, are also among the industries with the strongest job growth in North Carolina.

Families, communities and public structures all suffer through wage theft. If North Carolina is to make a full economic recovery, it is critical that state leaders examine these facts, and ensure that all workers are fairly compensated.

HKonJ: Save the Date - February 11, 2012

Five years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement – made up of over 125 member organizations –will continues its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march this February.

The 6th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 11, 2012. Armed with the historic shout, “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, a fair state budget, job creation, health care and community investments, and the protection of the rights of immigrants, among many other issues.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda. We’ll see you on Saturday, February 11.

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