The NC Department of Labor is charged by statute with promoting the 'health, safety and general well-being' of the state's more than three million working people. The many laws and programs under its jurisdiction affect virtually every person in the state in one way or another. The General Statutes provide the commissioner with broad regulatory and enforcement powers with which to carry out the department’s duties and responsibilities to the people. As an executive officer elected statewide to a 4-year term, the Commissioner is also a member of the Council of State. There are no term limits.
The best way to keep employees safe is thru collaboration, training, and education. Working across party lines for the betterment of the state.
1.) Workplace safety
2.) Timely responses to filed complaints
3.) Working collaboratively with both employees and employers.
In my time in the NC General Assembly I worked hard to find consensus and not govern in a heavy handed way. I believe an effective Labor Commissioner should govern collaborating with all stakeholders. Working with both labor and employers to make sure employees are trained and educated properly.
With regard to timely responses, I will work to assure that Labor Department employees are equipped to process complaints in a fair, efficient, and effective manner.
I believe most North Carolinians are hungry for a kind of politics that sets ideology aside for the betterment of the state. In the NC General Assembly I tried hard to govern in a bipartisan way. Every bill I filed I made sure to have both Republicans and Democrats as primary sponsors. I’m confident as Labor Commissioner I can work with both parties to make sure the Labor Department has the funding and the legal authority to keep the employees of North Carolina safe.
I am the candidate with the experience and voting record that reflects a commitment to workers' rights and supporting working families.
Safe and healthy work environments are a top priority for me; accordingly, I would use my office to strongly encourage safe business practices by proactively providing best practices and guidelines, trainings, and inspections. The failure to protect workers during this COVID-19 pandemic shows that it’s time for new leadership.
I will use my voice and political knowledge and experience to increase support for labor-related issues such as the need to increase the minimum wage, paid leave including sick leave, paid parental leave and paid family illness leave – much of which I have accomplished as a county commissioner. Ensuring the health of workers and working families necessitates supporting Medicaid Expansion, improving unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation.
It is also a key responsibility to ensure that both businesses and workers are at the table. North Carolinians do not have to choose between being pro-labor and pro-business as these are not mutually exclusive and our interests are often more aligned than is given credit. The Labor Commissioner can and should lead on engagement and facilitating conversations about ensuring safe and healthy work environments that are free from discrimination.
Ensuring fair wages is also a top priority. I will prioritize recovering wages for workers who have valid wage complaints, an area that has significant room for improvement within the Department of Labor.
On day one, I plan to reverse the current Commissioner’s decision not to provide Paid Parental Leave to Labor Department employees. In May 2019, Governor Cooper extended paid parental leave to state employees in cabinet agencies. Eligible state employees were able to receive this leave as of September 1, 2019 after giving birth or to bond with and care for a child in the event of an adoption or fostering.
The current Commissioner declined to participate in this initiative to support healthy families and therefore denied Labor Department employees the opportunity to benefit from the Governor’s Executive Order. I led on providing paid parental leave for Wake County Government employees, and will ensure it for labor department employees, and work with the General Assembly to support legislation to make it available to employees across our NC.
COVID-19 is the worst occupational safety crisis this country and our state has seen in recent memory. Workers have been forced to choose between their health and going to work to make ends meet, far too often for poverty wages. I’ll note that many of the same essential workers who have become the backbone of our economy do not make a living wage.
My mother was a laborer at a meatpacking plant, just like the ones where COVID-19 has been allowed to run rampant and infect hundreds if not thousands of workers and their families. Whenever necessary, I will strengthen state level OSHA standards and be proactive regarding inspections.
I will proactively work with the General Assembly to ensure that the Labor Department and working families have the resources needed to thrive. One of the key needs from the General Assembly is new and improved laws related to workers’ rights, many of which have been mentioned above.
As an attorney and county commissioner of our state’s capital county, I am very familiar with legal frameworks and have been very successful implementing policies that benefit working families. My experiences have afforded me the skills to negotiate and be effective in conveying and addressing the needs of my constituents.