Under the Dome

What does the future hold for public unions in North Carolina?

What will be the results of the relationship between public unions, Gov.-elect Pat McCrory's administration and Republican legislative majorities?

About a dozen public union supporters gathered outside the General Assembly building in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday to voice concerns to media about policy changes that may result from that relationship, and to renew talking points about familiar points of contention over labor issues.

Angaza Laughinghouse, president of the local N.C. Public Service Workers Union, told reporters that labor advocates "gathered here to stand up for our workers" and that they expect a fight on several fronts during the upcoming legislative session.

In particular, Laughinghouse said he is concerned about the potential policies that would make public workers become at-will employees. That would place state employees in a situation familiar to many of their private sector counterparts – they could be fired for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all.

He said it would have an immensely negative impact, in part because it would faciliate layoffs during a time of high unemployment.

Other concerns raised are the longstanding stagnation of wages for state workers that have not accounted for inflation over the past few years and recent international criticism of a lack of collective bargaining rights for public workers in North Carolina.

Harry Payne, counsel for the N.C. Justice Center, said three "myths" have perpetuated about public employees: that most have exorbitant salaries, that there are enough to fire without a noticeable impact, and that they will easily assimilate and find another job in the private sector.

Payne said the result is understaffed, ineffective government that can be seen in long lines and seemingly-endless phone trees.

"It's not the fault of people not working hard," he said. "It's just that there aren't enough people."

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