Local 150 Activists
Bring Case For Fair
Budget to Legislators
As state legislators convened to grapple with the budget, UE activists from a number of public-sector worksites converged
on the State Legislative Building on June 19 to argue for a fair budget that protects services and jobs.
The State of North Carolina faces a budget deficit approaching $2 billion, a result of the national economic recession,
tax cuts, and poor planning. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has announced an austerity plan that could involve massive
cuts in jobs and services. In response, UE Local 150, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, is conducting a ‘State of Emergency’
campaign to defend jobs.
POLITICAL ACTION DAY
The UE political action day bought together workers from five DHHS facilities, University of North Carolina housekeepers,
UNC graduate employees, and Durham municipal workers.
The UE members met with 30 lawmakers, making the case for a fair budget and continued services and jobs. The delegation
spoke briefly with Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight (D.); the Senate had started moving its budget proposal the night before.
"We accomplished what we set out to accomplish," remarks Ray Eurquhart, Local 150 political action
coordinator. "We made sure we targeted the legislators who needed to be targeted, particularly for the DHHS side." Visits
concentrated on legislators from Granville County, home of two DHHS facilities — the Murdoch Center and John Umstead Hospital —
threatened by the austerity plan.
'CLOSE THE LOOPHOLES'
While arguing for continued services, and against cutbacks that would harm workers, the UE Local 150 members called for
taxes on the wealthy and corporations. "Close the loopholes for corporations, and the crazy incentives for development," says
UNC housekeepers argued against "flexibility," a corporate-management model that would give university bosses
nearly complete control over operations without accountability. "We would still be state workers but the university could do exactly
what they want to," explains Local 150 Pres. Barbara Prear, a housekeeper.
In many cases, the UE members could thank the legislators for their support. "We’ve always had a good relationship
with our legislators," says Prear. "We thanked them for being in our corner," Eurquhart says.
FOOTING THE BILL
The UE members received issues briefings from Sen. Paul Leubke, Sorien Schmidt of the North Carolina Justice
Center, and UE Political Action Dir. Chris Townsend.
"They are afraid to raise revenue because of what might happen in the election — without relating that to the cost
to those who need services," Leubke said.
"In the good times they gave tax breaks to the corporations — now we are paying the price," remarked Schmidt.
"They want low and middle income people to foot the bill. The Senate budget does not ask the corporations and the rich to pay their
fair share." She concluded, "It’s a very dire situation."
The UE program calls on legislators to:
Restore the state government’s "rainy day" fund.
Review and reduce corporate welfare.
Revise the tax code to restore fairness and raise revenue.
Locate new funding sources.
Review state management layers and contractor costs.
Explore the feasibility of a private and public sector non-profit health insurance "pool."
Eurquhart says UE Local 150 will likely be back in the halls of the State Legislative Building later this year, and will
consider proposals for a more consistent approach to legislative work. The statewide UE local is "still young," he says, growing
and gaining in experience.