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North Carolina
Responds to Protests
By UE Local 150


In response to protests by UE Local 150, a task force appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt last month issued a series of recommendations for elimination of racial discrimination at the Eastern Carolina School for the Deaf.

Following nearly a year of investigation, the task force delivered its report in the Massey Center auditorium on the school’s campus April 5; present were Gov. Hunt’s chief of staff, Linda Povlich, and Stephanie Bass, chief of staff to Secretary of Health and Human Services David Bruton. "These are very important and very serious recommendations," Povlich said.

The recommendations focus on improving fairness and equity in the treatment of employees and students by improving communications at all levels. The task force asks the state to:

  • Enforce state laws regarding discrimination;

  • Inform employees of their rights;

  • Make sure employee complaints are handled fairly and confidentially;

  • Give employees the training they need to do their jobs well;

  • Provide diversity training for all employees;

  • And to make sure all employees understand how hiring and salary decisions are made.

Bass pledged that the Department of Health and Human Services would monitor implementation of the task force’s recommendations on a quarterly basis. Thomasine Hardy, the school’s recently appointed director, promised to monitor compliance with the recommendations on a daily basis.


Kristi Hyman, co-chair of the task force and the executive director of the Governor’s Initiative on Race, praised the members of North Carolina Public Services Workers Union, UE Local 150, who organized the protest last spring which led to the task force. "Sometimes people have to stand up and be heard," she said. "This is what America is all about."

"We welcome your report and recommendations," said Inez Banks, a worker in the school’s health center, who spoke on behalf of the union. "We commit to have members of the union on each of the bodies to work to implement the recommendations."

Echoing the comments of other speakers, Banks said union members love the school’s students and their jobs taking care of them. This is what motivated the protests, they said.

"We need to learn from history," Banks said. "Change is not always easy, but it is necessary."


On April 30, 1999, the UE Local 150 chapter at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf conducted a public hearing on patterns of racial discrimination experienced by workers on the job. Twelve school employees, all union members, gave testimony to a panel consisting of two state representatives, a city councilman, a community housing leader, a Glass Workers’ local treasurer and three ministers. The union presented the panel a petition signed by 1,200 area residents calling on the Governor to conduct an immediate investigation in the problems at the School for the Deaf.

Weeks prior to the hearing, workers rallied outside the school entrance to kick off their campaign against discrimination. UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley was among the speakers.

Between these two events, the school’s superintendent, regarded as a major part of the problems, announced he would be stepping down.

UE News - 05/00

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