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Learn About The Eastern North Carolina Union Organizing Blitz For Workers’ Rights

Published Sunday, July 7, 2019
by Dante Strobino/
Learn About The Eastern North Carolina Union Organizing Blitz For Workers’ Rights

(THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA) - From early to mid June, more than 40 Union Activists from the United Electrical Workers (UE) and Unifor Canada gathered in rural Eastern North Carolina to join forces on an organizing blitz, targeting 10 workplaces that employed Non-Union Workers.

The effort was part of a North Carolina Public Service Workers Union/UE Local 150 campaign to build a statewide movement of City Workers to fight for a Municipal Workers Bill of Rights.  The blitz centered in Wilson, but also targeted City Workers in Goldsboro and Rocky Mount, and reached out deeper where the Union already has chapters, including to City Workers in Raleigh, where four state-operated mental health facilities and two auto parts plants are located.

This was part of the North American Solidarity Project between UE and its close ally in Canada, Unifor.  Three Unifor Members came to participate in the blitz and in the process learn about the struggles of Southern Workers and the Social Movement Union approach of Local 150. 

During that time, participants circulated over 1,800 fliers to Non-Union Workers and collected over 300 names of Workers who said they were interested in joining the Union – and, 134 Workers attended Union-interest meetings. 

“This blitz was ‘really excellent at bringing more attention to’ Eastern North Carolina for our Municipal Workers Bill of Rights Campaign,” stated Bryce Carter, the President of UE150 and a Street Maintenance Worker in Greensboro. “By bringing our ‘Union message’ to these three new cities, ‘we can now really say that we have a statewide movement.’  ‘This is a big advance in building Workers’ Power.’”

In surveying the Workers, the Union Representatives discovered that without a Union, many of the Municipal Workers suffered from dangerous working conditions, including no required breaks during excessive Summer heat.

After the tragic heat-related death of a Solid Waste Laborer - Anthony Milledge in Charlotte in the Summer of 2017, Local 150 fought for and won mandatory hourly breaks when the heat index is over 90 degrees in Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh.

This is all part of the statewide Municipal Workers Bill of Rights Campaign to establish basic guaranteed standards for all City Workers in the State and Southern region. 

Workers also identified low wages, unaffordable health insurance, workplace racism and unfair management as some of the top issues to organize around in the future. 

On another front, City Workers in Rocky Mount have to pay $200 every two weeks in health insurance premiums. Additionally, many have utility bills around $400 every month.

Paying these bills is impossible to sustain on their wages of about $11 or $12 an hour.   

Many of the Eastern North Carolina cities, such as Wilson and Rocky Mount, set up their own publicly owned municipal power systems, generating power locally for residents.

Nineteen of these cities formed an alliance to share power among themselves and all contributed to building five power plants at the cost of $3.5 billion.

However, in 2015 these cities sold the power plants to privately owned Duke Energy for only $1.5 billion, letting the difference in the bill fall on local residents who now collectively pay over $10 million a year in interest.  

On yet another front, Public Workers in North Carolina are banned from collectively bargaining a Union Contract.

Local 150 is a Direct-Join, Direct-Action Union where Workers can sign up as Members and not have to wait for an onerous Labor Board Election. 

This new style of Unionism is picking up across the South and throughout the country

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