N.C. Activists Take on State GOP’s Anti-Democratic, Anti-Worker Agenda
February 3, 2014
Clergy, civil rights activists, union members and education advocates from throughout North Carolina are converging on Raleigh Feb. 8 for what is expected to be the largest ever “Moral Monday” march.
Since last April, activists have been rallying at the statehouse every Monday, protesting the extremist agenda of the state Republican Party, which dominates the state legislature. More than 900 have been arrested for participating in civil disobedience.
“These folks have lost their constitutional minds and their moral minds,” the Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., told the New York Times. “We can no longer allow the ultraconservatives to have the moral megaphone.”
Traditionally a moderate southern state, North Carolina underwent sharp right turn with the GOP takeover of the legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012. “As soon as they got in, the GOP started ramming through all this extreme legislation,” said David Haynes, IBEW Membership Development Department North Carolina lead organizer. “They are making North Carolina a laboratory a for every bad Tea Party idea out there.”
Legislators have pushed some of the most restrictive voting rules in the nation – from ending early voting and same-day registration to requiring a state-issued photo ID (which 318,00 registered voters don’t have) to cast a ballot. And parents whose children vote where they attend college can no longer claim their kids as dependents on their state taxes.
Gov. Pat McCrory said that the legislation is needed to prevent voter fraud, but Haynes said that the new voting restrictions are nothing more than a partisan power grab. “They are solving a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said. “They are just trying to drive the poor and young people away from the polls.”
“Voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators,” the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law wrote in a 2007 report.
Lawmakers have also dramatically slashed funding to public schools and North Carolina’s highly-regarded university system, which faces $50 million in cuts, while eliminating preschool for 30,000 children.
At the same time, they’ve slashed taxes on the very wealthy, cutting the corporate income tax to the lowest level in the Southeast.
And despite an unemployment rate of 8 percent – above the national average – North Carolina ended long-term unemployment benefits for nearly 70,000 people last year.
The legislature’s anti-worker bent was made obvious early last year, when House Speaker Thom Tillis sponsored a bill that would place a referendum on the ballot enshrining the state’s so-called right-to-work law in the constitution.
“It says a lot that this was one of the first things they started the year out with,” Haynes said.
“These are not the moderate, business-minded Republicans that North Carolinians have long been accustomed to,” wrote the American Prospect. “They are pushing a hard-right agenda on a broad range of issues, from taxes to social services to schools and election laws. They are scrambling to turn back the clock before demographic changes push their brand of right-wing politics to the margins.”
Funding this hard-right takeover is retail mogul and ultra-conservative ideologue Art Pope. Head of Variety Wholesalers (a discount store chain), Pope’s political committees spent $2.2 million on state legislative races in 2010 – an unheard sum in North Carolina politics. In 2012, he kicked in an additional $2 million to elect McCrory and guarantee the GOP a supermajority in the General Assembly.
Haynes and other labor activists from throughout the state will be at the Feb.8 rally.
“The people of North Carolina are standing up for economic justice and fairness,” said International President Edwin D. Hill. “I encourage every Tarheel State IBEW member to come together in Raleigh Feb.8 to say no to Art Pope’s extreme agenda.”
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Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user yashmori .