NC JUSTICE NEWS: Tillis vs. Medicaid + Protecting Farmworkers + Crucial Conversation

Oct. 18, 2011

TILLIS VS. MEDICAID: The House Speaker’s outrageous comments

The NC Department for Health and Human Services reported last week that there is a $100 million “hole” in the Medicaid budget, attributed to various programmatic and administrative issues. But sadly, that wasn’t the most unsettling bit of news to come out of the Medicaid debate as of late.

Instead, the most disturbing story came from NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, who made statements about public assistance for families that can only be described as chilling. Tillis complained that there are individuals with disabilities who could lose benefits while the state continues to send checks to women that have had multiple children out of wedlock. "What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,” Tillis said. “We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice in her condition that needs help and we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government."

Essentially, Tillis is reacting against criticisms against himself and other politicians who were responsible for major Medicaid cuts by sowing dissent against his critics. It’s a disgusting tactic to foment anger and resentment between low-income mothers and nursing home residents across the state whose bills are paid for by Medicaid, or indeed, among anyone else that depends on Medicaid and might be manipulated into blaming his or her fellow recipients for cuts instead of the lawmakers who created them.

The NC Health Access Coalition released a report last week providing five reasons why every family in North Carolina is aided by the Medicaid program. It’s more important than ever that families encourage solidarity and understanding in support of this crucial state program – not turn against one another when so much is at risk.

FARMWORKERS AT RISK: How the Labor Dept. dropped the ball

It seems the North Carolina Labor Department may have been shirking its duties in the protection of migrant farmworkers and poultry workers and is now refusing to admit any wrongdoing. In fact, they’re going so far as to accusing human rights lawyers of promoting a “leftist agenda.”

Last week, Legal Aid of North Carolina's Farmworker Unit filed a complaint with the US Department of Labor claiming that the NC Department of Labor is failing to ensure safe working and housing conditions for farmworkers in North Carolina. The Labor Department’s Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau is responsible for inspecting farmworker housing and following up on any violations such as field sanitation, overcrowded housing, unsanitary facilities, and pesticide exposure.

But advocates report that NC Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has ignored concerns raised about substandard housing and working conditions. Berry’s office has often turned a blind eye toward sanitation violations, advocates wrote on Sept. 30, as well as reduced penalties for employers who have violated laws and failed to conduct sufficient labor camp inspections. In 2009, only a small fraction of migrant camps were inspected after workers arrived and less than one-third of the camps are properly registered with the state.

These violations alone are deeply upsetting, yet the response from the Dept. of Labor has been nothing short of outrageous. The department called the farmworker advocates’ complaint a "political stunt to promote a leftist agenda." Unbelievably, the Department of Labor’s official response said, "Is Legal Aid actually trying to help people or are they just trying to advance their political agenda?”

As Rob Schofield wrote on NC Policy Watch, “Since when did providing toilets to human beings become ‘leftist’?” Surely human decency can’t be attributed to one party or another.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: NC Policy Watch heads to Charlotte

NC Policy Watch is taking their Crucial Conversation event to Charlotte to address what a year of conservative control has meant for the North Carolina General Assembly.

NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis’ recently remarked that implied his goal was to pit disabled people against poor people as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. In many ways, his statement seems to be a neat summary of the strategy employed by conservative legislative leaders during the 2011 state legislative session.

Join NC Policy Watch on Wednesday, Nov. 2 for a special Crucial Conversation event to find out just how successful this strategy has been. Policy Watch’s own Chris Fitzsimon and Rob Schofield will be leading the discussion.

Chris Fitzsimon is the Director of N.C. Policy Watch and North Carolina’s leading progressive media personality. Chris is a veteran journalist and nonprofit leader whose daily commentaries are heard on radio and read online throughout North Carolina. His colleague, Rob Schofield, is the Director of Research at N.C. Policy Watch. Rob is lawyer, lobbyist and writer with more than 25 years experience fighting for progressive policies at the state level.

The event will be held at noon on Nov. 2 in Harris Hall at the Levine Museum of the New South, located at 200 E. Seventh Street in downtown Charlotte. The $10 admission includes a box lunch. Click here to register for the event, and contact Rob Schofield at with any questions.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Lunch for older adults, caregivers

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Wednesday, November 2 for the next Campaign for Better Care community luncheon and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

The Campaign for Better Care aims to make improvements in the health system for vulnerable, older adults, and build a strong, lasting consumer voice for better health care. Come and share your experiences about what you think needs to be changed in our health system, and take advantage of the expertise offered from the AARP and the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).

The free event will be held from 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Northeast Regional Library in Wilmington. To reserve your space, contact the disAbility Resource Center at 910.815.6618 or Nicole Dozier at or 919-856-2146. For more information, visit the NC Justice website.


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