Friday, April 06, 2007

UN panel condemns NC collective bargaining law

In December 2004, I participated on a panel in Chapel Hill to hear the grievances of public-sector workers--employees of UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill. As Dan Coleman reported on Orange Politics, the hearing was held to underscore the need for public workers to have collective bargaining rights. It was sponsored by U.E. 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, an organization that has a constitutional right to exist, but, under North Carolina law, has no right to enter into collective bargaining agreements with its members' public employers. North Carolina is one of only two states with outright legislative bans against public workers bargaining with their employers. These hearings, held in Chapel Hill and elsewhere across the state, kicked off a concerted campaign to get the law overturned.

Following that hearing, the Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of getting the law against public-sector collective bargaining overturned.

In March 2005, I participated with U.E. 150 in a news conference at the General Assembly in a direct appeal to our legislators to take action. This term, Sen. Larry Shaw of Cumberland County has introduced a bill that would permit public-sector collective bargaining and establish a public employee labor relations commission. The bill has been referred to the rules committee.

On another track, through the national U.E. organization the North Carolina chapter lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization, the United Nations' workers rights watchdog agency (born out of the Treaty of Versailles). Upon investigation, after hearing the responses of the U.S. government, the ILO, through its Committee on Freedom of Association, has issued its ruling.
The Committee[CFA] requests the [United States] Government to promote the establishment of a collective bargaining framework in the public sector in North Carolina – with the participation of representatives of the state and local administration and public employees’ trade unions, and the technical assistance of the [ILO] Office if so desired – and to take steps aimed at bringing the state legislation, in particular through the repeal of NCGS §95-98, into conformity with the freedom of association principles, thus ensuring the effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining throughout the country’s territory. The Committee requests to be kept informed of developments in this respect.

Said Bob Kingsley, U.E.'s national director of organization, "This decision is an international wake-up call to state lawmakers in North Carolina. The world is watching. It's time to change the law and erase the disgraceful human rights deficit in the state today."

This campaign has benefited tremendously from the leadership of Ashaki Binta. Other organizations that are supporting U.E. 150's efforts include the North Carolina NAACP, Hear Our Public Employees (HOPE) Coalition, and the Southern Faith-Labor Community Alliance.

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