Are You Drowning In The Status Quo
On Tuesday November 3rd we will be electing a new commissioner of labor for the State of North Carolina.
This is an exciting year because it’s an open election. The previous Commissioner, who held the office for five terms changed little. This time around, hopefully, things will be different.
The two candidates are Jessica Holmes for the Democratic Party and Josh Dobson for the Republican Party. Both candidates have political experience.
Jessica Holmes served for 7 years on the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which is no mean feat. Wake County is now the largest county in North Carolina. Not only has she served on the largest county but she also has the distinction of being the youngest person to serve as a commissioner and also the youngest person to serve as the board’s chair.
Jessica earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina.
Josh Dobson served 8 years in the North Carolina House of Representatives and during that time was involved in a ton of legislation. One bill in particular represents where his head is on financial issues, SB 820 which was signed into law on December 3, 2018. Simply put, the bill increases the cap on incentives paid to corporations that move premises to North Carolina. On the surface, it sounds promising but it’s mostly about big money and deep pockets. You can read about a few of the problems with the bill on NC Policy Watch.
Josh earned a Masters of Public Administration from Appalachian State.
The Commissioner’s Responsibilities
The powers of the commissioner of Labor are broadly described as:
The responsibility to promote the health, safety, and general well-being of the workers in the state of North Carolina.
That can mean anything – it’s very broad and very vague. So the question we have to ask is:
How will these two candidates interpret this directive? What will they do with it, what is important to them and how will it affect the workers in North Carolina? To answer those questions I visited the Facebook page for each candidate and found very divergent views.
On her Facebook page, Jessica Holmes made this statement:
Workers have been fighting for safe working conditions, fair and equitable wages, child labor laws, benefits such as healthcare, sick days, and retirement since the beginning of our industrialized society. For too long workers in North Carolina have fought that fight without an advocate in the Department of Labor. Join me in the fight for workers rights.
Obviously, wage levels and workers’ benefits are important for Jessica
Josh Dobson also mentions a few topics important to him. Among his key goals are:
Assuring migrant workers have suitable housing, monitoring wage disputes, and supporting the state’s right-to-work laws.
Important issues? Maybe.
Migrant workers – yes. They need to be looked after.
Wage disputes – very definitely important. EPI indicates that millions of minimum wage workers are cheated out of wages at an average rate of $3300 a year. That’s huge! The Commissioner needs to put time into that issue, but it would also be helpful if he or she would push minimum wage upward. Josh doesn’t show an interest.
Right-to-work laws – I’m not so sure. If anything, these laws are aimed at interfering with unions and the benefits they provide which indicates where Josh stands on wage levels.
Jessica on the other hand, while she doesn’t specifically mention unions, says it is important for employers and employees to sit down at the table and discuss wages and benefits openly, honestly, and fairly.
The closest Josh comes to discussing wage level issues is he advocates for educational programs that would improve a person’s ability to earn a better wage. Of course, the question is once the education is achieved will wages actually improve?
It’s a good question. The answer isn’t always positive.
Facts To Consider
A few facts to consider before you vote are:
- A minimum wage job ($7.25 an hour) earns $1,000 less per year than the federal poverty level. What that means is minimum wage is barely enough to pay monthly rent and utilities. Minimum wage workers start every day with their head below water and no hope of reaching air. People often complain that there isn’t enough affordable housing but the best way to make housing affordable is to pay a living wage.
- The last time minimum wage was increased was 2009 but inflation decreases the value of your dollars every day of every year.
- The salary of the present commissioner of labor was raised every two years during the past few terms.
And that’s not all.
- 38000 people are working for minimum wage.
- 53000 people are working for less than the minimum wage.
- 63% of those working at or below the minimum wage are women.
Jessica is working to increase the minimum wage to a fair level. Josh is working to maintain the status quo.
Jessica believes a living wage is fair and equitable. Josh believes a living wage is a handout.
We need a Commissioner of Labor who will ask employers to be fair and just.
Contact The Candidates
You can register to vote or check your registration status at Vote.org.
See you at the polls!