|UE Charlotte members picket city hall, kicking off the Southern Worker Bill of RIghts campaign.|
On August 6, one month before the Democratic National Convention comes to this North Carolina city, workers employed by the city picketed the city council to demand recognition of their rights. They plan to continue picketing every week until the convention begins, at which time they will be joined by sisters and brothers from across the South in the Southern Workers Assembly.
City workers are campaigning for adoption of a City Workers Bill of Rights, providing decent working conditions and decent wages. Union members want the right to representation in grievance hearings, and voluntary payroll deduction of union dues for workers that choose to join the union. North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) § 95-98 continues to deny public employees in the state the fundamental right, under international human rights standards, to bargain collectively and achieve labor contracts with their employers. The City of Charlotte does not have the power on its own to repeal NCGS § 95-98 , but the city does have the authority to initiate a meet-and-confer policy, which would give union members input into decisions affecting them, and to institute voluntary union dues check-off. At least three other North Carolina cities practice meet-and-confer and have dues checkoff, as does the state government for its employees.
"The hard work we do is vital for this city to function, so we are asking the City Council to address our needs and rights as workers and to establish a system of meet-and-confer with us to discuss how to keep the city running smoothly through the convention," said Al Locklear, a sanitation worker and president of the Charlotte City Workers Union, a chapter of UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Services Union. "When we saw that the city manager received two raises this year totaling over $20,000, yet we hardly got anything, we realized that our hard work is not recognized."
Barbara Edgecombe, also a sanitation worker and secretary-treasurer of the City Workers Union, added: "We are sick and tired of being given 30 day suspensions without pay for minor infractions, this can be devastating to a worker's life. Then when we get suspended, we are not even given the basic right to representation to give us a fair chance to defend ourselves on the job."
UE Local 150 and its Charlotte chapter, along with dozens of other unions and workers organizations from across the South, plan to participate in the Southern Workers Assembly on Labor Day, Monday, September 3, which is also the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. The assembly will highlight the economic injustices and denial of human and labor rights under which Southern workers suffer, and demand adoption of a Workers' Bill of Rights. Organizers plan to push for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and misnamed "right-to-work" laws to facilitate union organizing in the South and nationwide.
Find out more about the Southern Workers' Assembly at this link.