NC JUSTICE NEWS: Poverty in North Carolina + Wage Theft + Defenders of Justice Awards

March 6, 2012

TRUTH & HOPE TOUR: Shedding light on poverty in southeast NC

The day after Rep. George Cleveland claimed that extreme poverty doesn’t exist in North Carolina, a tour of communities in the southeast region heard and saw evidence that proved otherwise. The second 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, made stops in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Navassa, Supply, Red Spring, Greenville, Goldsboro, Dudley, and Faison on March 2 and 3.

Residents in Greenville and Red Springs described struggling to provide for their families and also pay their utility bills, which often exceed $1,000 each month. Others are living in the woods, while veterans in Fayetteville have had to resort to sleeping under bridges throughout the city. In Wilmington, a woman facing health issues and lives in a temporary recovery house told the crowd that she had applied for supported housing but had been told she shouldn’t even bother filling out an application as there are no openings. “That’s all I’ve ever known – being poor,” Murray said. “We’re hardworking people but some can’t even get change together for the bus to go to minimum wage jobs.”

The tour also heard stories of environmental poverty in impoverished, predominantly minority communities that have been neglected or targeted for harmful construction. In Navassa, Mayor Eulis Willis led the bus to closed fertilizer factory sites that left behind 624 acres of contaminated land full of toxic soil that has been harmful to the community. A Supply community is battling the establishment of a 259-acre landfill directly across the road from residential houses that have been denied water and sewage services from Brunswick County.

The third and final left of the Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty will visit Western North Carolina in late April. Follow @truthandhopenc on Twitter for updates, and “Like” the tour’s Facebook page for access to photos, video, and articles.

NC PRE-K: Fight must continue to protect early childhood education

Last week, the NC House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education Improvement considered a proposal that would have lowered the "at-risk" income eligibility for children and their families seeking enrollment in NC Pre-K, cutting off nearly 10,000 children from crucial early childhood education programs. Fortunately, legislators paid heed to public comments, and scaled back their recommendations for changing Pre-K eligibility, in addition to backing off proposals that allowed only private providers to offer NC Pre-K.

The NC Justice Center commends legislators for listening to the public and changing course on this important issue, but it’s important that we remain vocal about this issue and vigilant in the fight to protect early childhood education. It’s clear that last week’s efforts may have only slowed down the process of restructuring NC Pre-K, in addition to opening up the entire discussion of what poverty means in North Carolina. Deep poverty is all too real in our state, despite what lawmakers may have implied at last week’s meeting, and fighting such poverty begins with ensuring that all children have the opportunity to receive high-quality early learning.

Investing in early education is one of the best ways to move the state forward. As more North Carolinians fall into poverty and poverty deepens for too many, North Carolina’s policymakers should discuss these issues with the facts in hand and an understanding of the solutions that are proven to make a difference.

WAGE THEFT STUDY: Looking for workers to share their stories

Everyone should be paid for their work. Have you ever not been paid what you were owed?

Wage theft – the illegal underpayment or nonpayment of work – is a growing problem in North Carolina. Last year, documented wage theft cost North Carolina workers and their communities an estimated $4.7 million. Wage theft includes overtime/ minimum wage violations, “off the clock” violations, tipped job violations, non-payment of wages, and misclassification as an independent contractor.

The North Carolina Justice Center together with the Human Rights Policy Clinic at the UNC School of Law is conducting an in-depth qualitative study on wage theft in the Triangle this spring. As part of a larger effort to combat the growing problem of wage theft, this small-scale research study will focus on the impact of wage theft on workers and communities.

We are currently scheduling interviews to talk about working conditions and the impacts of wage theft. All interviews are in-person and last about an hour. All questions are voluntary and information is strictly confidential. We are able to offer a $20 incentive for each interview (plus the cost of childcare for one hour).

For diversity in the study, we are looking for the following:

  • Workers who have experience a recent wage theft issue in one of the following industries: Caregiving (either formal or informal, such as child care); Restaurant; or Retail
  • And are 18 or older and a U.S. citizen

For more information, please contact Sabine Schoenbach at the North Carolina Justice Center at 919.856.2234 or sabine@ncjustice.org. Spanish speakers, please contact Ron Garcia-Fogarty at 866.415.1389 or 919.861.2064 or ron@ncjustice.org.

"OUT OF CONTROL" TOUR: Greenville, Charlotte, Wilmington

The General Assembly’s “midnight attack” on North Carolina’s teachers in January revealed a remarkable willingness to ram through an extreme agenda, no matter what it takes.

Please join N.C. Policy Watch and some key progressive allies at a series of public forums that will explore: how North Carolina's extreme right-wing General Assembly is turning back the clock, who's bankrolling its agenda, and what it means for our lives. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and share your perspective, too.

  • Greenville: Thursday, March 8, 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greenville NC, 131 Oakmont Drive. Featured speakers: Chris Fitzsimon, Chris Kromm, MaryBe McMillan, Jake Gellar-Goad. Register for the event.
  • Charlotte : Tuesday, March 13, 7:00 p.m., Teamsters Local Union 71, 2529 Beltway Blvd. Featured speakers: Chris Fitzsimon, Chris Kromm, MaryBe McMillan, Robert Dawkins. Register here.
  • Wilmington : Wed., March 28. Time and location TBA. Featured speakers: Rob Schofield, Chris Kromm, MaryBe McMillan, Nancy Shakir. Register here.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: May 10, 2012

The Justice Center presents its Defender of Justice Awards to honor individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work.

The event will be held on Thursday, May 10, 2012 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Bay 7 in the American Tobacco Campus, Durham. Recipients will be announced in the upcoming weeks. Purchase your ticket today.

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