Brutal unemployment bill is exposed by House of Raeford plant closings
Governor McCrory is touting 150 high tech jobs that RTP will gain by 2018. We could compare the 150 future jobs with the projected loss of 5200 teacher jobs and 4580 teacher assistant jobs based on the budget that Governor McCrory signed on 7/26/13. But more immediately, let’s consider the House of Raeford plant closings that happened last Thursday, 8/1/13. (Fayetteville Observer, “Workers finish final shift at House of Raeford as plant closes, leaving hundreds without jobs,” 8/1/13) (http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2013/08/01/1273370) The 950 House of Raeford jobs were generally low-wage positions that provided steady paychecks for many people in a four-county area that has unemployment rates in the double digits.
The pain from the Raeford job loss was made worse by the new unemployment law (House Bill 4) that Gov. McCrory signed on 2/19/13. The turkey plant workers in that part of NC are the first large group to experience this ruthless law, which went into effect on 7/1/13. These workers not only lost their jobs, but also face shrunken weekly benefits – slashed by a third – for a frighteningly brief time before they are dumped by our state as well. HB 4 also makes them ineligible for fully funded Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program (UEC) benefits.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 170,000 North Carolinians will lose an estimated $780 million in unemployment because of the new law.
The pain of the plant closing will extend to turkey farmers, not counted in the 950 House of Raeford employees.
Did our lawmakers or governor consider the job loss for workers in a depressed part of our state? The closing has been publicized since at least March 2013, so they should have. There are not many job opportunities down east, so the loss of emergency long term unemployment makes the layoffs more painful.
North Carolina is the only state in the U.S. to turn down the Federal EUC Program. This program is 100% funded and was providing unemployment benefits to over 70,000 out-of-work North Carolinians who had exhausted their state benefits. Our lawmakers should revisit this brutal bill in a special session.
Certainly our lawmakers were approached multiple times to extend the EUC through the end of 2013. I know because the North Carolina National Organization for Women signed on to a letter from more than 20 advocacy groups calling on Gov. McCrory and lawmakers to keep families from going over the unemployment cliff on July 1. This letter was delivered at least 3 times by the NC Justice Center, and said in part:
"At a time when so many North Carolinians are struggling to find work, the loss of federal benefits through the end of the year will affect thousands of individuals and families across the state, as well as local businesses and retailers who need consumers to demand their goods and services."
North Carolina has offered millions to entice Syngenta, a Switzerland-based company. Why can't North Carolina help House of Raeford - a North Carolina company that employed many North Carolinians - reopen?
-Gailya Paliga, President, NC National Organization for Women