NC JUSTICE NEWS: Dangerous Unemployment Bill + Rejecting Medicaid Expansion + 20th Anniversary of Family & Medical Leave Act

February 5, 2013

UNEMPLOYMENT SLASHED: Lawmakers vote against NC workers

On Monday night, the North Carolina House voted to slash unemployment benefits for North Carolinians at a time when the state has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country.

The Senate is likely to act quickly following the passage of this unprecedented and damaging legislation. The proposed changes to our Unemployment Insurance system would leave unemployed workers in a desperate situation by cutting the maximum benefit amounts, altering all benefits by changing to a formula no other state uses, slashing the duration of benefits, and excluding workers who lose their job due to health or family reasons.

Don't just take our word for it. Click here to watch a video by the AFL-CIO of North Carolina, featuring real North Carolinians who have been able to survive — barely — thanks to UI benefits. Their families and lives will be put at grave risk if the proposed changes go into effect

Now is the time to call, e-mail, contact Governor McCrory and Legislators and tell them to stop the madness before it's too late. Action on this bill is already happening and it is critical that you make your voice heard if you disagree.

MEDICAID EXPANSION: Senate votes to block expanding health care

The North Carolina Senate pushed through legislation yesterday that will block the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, in turn preventing hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians from getting health insurance.

Through the expansion, North Carolina would have leveraged at least $15 billion in federal funds over the next decade and saved thousands of jobs for North Carolina health care workers and rural hospitals. It would also save money for all North Carolinians who buy health insurance.

By rejecting the expansion, North Carolina's lawmakers put uninsured North Carolinians at risk. The American Academy of Actuaries estimates that premiums for private insurance will be at least 2 percent higher in states that do not expand Medicaid, due to cost shifts and unhealthier people buying subsidized insurance. The federal money offered through the expansion, which was already appropriated by the Affordable Care Act, will simply go to other states that are expanding their Medicaid programs, enabling them to be more efficient and effective.

Even Gov. McCrory expressed concern at moving this legislation too quickly. Here's hoping that the North Carolina House considers the long-term ramifications of rejecting the Medicaid expansion on North Carolina communities.

FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: Historic legislation in need of update

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the historic Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), legislation passed to guarantee Americans protected time to care for their loved ones. It's a day to celebrate how far we have come in 20 years as well as an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go, particularly at a time when legislation threatens to punish unemployed workers.

FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, which workers can use to care for a new baby, a sick family member, or to recover from an illness. However, to be protected by FMLA, a worker must be employed by a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles, work 1,250 hours per year, and be on the job for at least a year. In turn, FMLA ends up excluding more than half of the workforce, including employees in smaller companies and many part-timers, and has a narrow definition of family. Several million workers a year who are eligible for FMLA and need leave don’t even take it — mostly because they cannot afford to go without pay.

Some states have expanded or improved FMLA by expanding its definition and establishing family leave insurance programs, among other changes. North Carolina has also taken steps toward filling these legislation gaps by introducing the Caregiver Relief Act, which would extend the protections of FMLA to allow eligible employees to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepparent, or parent-in-law. Considering that almost 1.2 million North Carolinians are family caregivers for older and disabled adults, a revamped FMLA would more accurately reflect the realities of North Carolina’s families.

HKonJ SAVE THE DATE: Historic March on Jones Street - Feb. 9, 2013

Six 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 continue its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march on February 9.

The 7th Annual HKonJ march will take place this Saturday, February 9, 2013. 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, collective bargaining, affordable housing, health care, environmental justice, and the protection of the rights of immigrants.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march to the General Assembly will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda.

"RIGHT TO WORK": Adding laws to constitution won't help economy

North Carolina is already a “right to work” (RTW) state, but now lawmakers are currently pushing to add this status to the state’s constitution. Instead of amending the state constitution to include what already exists under state law, which is a waste of time and money for taxpayers, lawmakers should be taking a careful look at the negative role RTW laws play in supporting the state’s economic recovery.

“Right to work” laws fail to create jobs and can in fact lower wages and undermine the middle class. These laws, despite the misleading name, have little to do with a right to a job. Instead, RTW laws make it illegal for a group of unionized workers to require all workers at that workplace to pay union dues.

RTW laws dilute bargaining strength and help keep unionization rates low, in turn negatively impacting workers’ wages and benefits. Yet increased union membership can lead to higher wages for both union and non-union members, and offer greater access to health insurance and pensions. Such increases in income and benefits that ensure financial stability for working families strengthen the middle class and local economies.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Examining a divided nation with Coffee Party

Annabel Park and Eric Byler are filmmakers known for innovative ways in which they have combined emerging social media tools with grassroots organizing. They are founders of Coffee Party USA, a grassroots democracy movement which emerged in the early 2010 as a fact-based, civil alternative to the Tea Party with over 500,000 people in their network.
Their new documentary web series (soon to be developed into a feature film), Story of America: A Nation Divided, examines the ways in which America has become divided as a country, investigates the causes and invites the audience to share their stories about America and engage in a dialogue about how we can become more united.

Please join NC Policy Watch as Annabel and Eric share some of their work, their experiences as filmmakers/organizers and their ideas for how we fact America’s divide and lead the country towards greater unity.

The event will be held on Friday, February 8, with coffee and breakfast available at 7:45 a.m., at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough Street. Click here to register.

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