Local governments in North Carolina’s biggest cities are being continually pushed farther left by their electorate. That’s led city councils to introduce policy proposals that put them at odds with state law.

The latest example comes from Durham, where the City Council is set to consider creating a broad but poorly defined committee that is certain to antagonize business interests and the General Assembly in the booming Triangle town.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Durham City Council is expected to form a “Durham Workers’ Rights Commission” as a council-appointed committee.

According to the proposal, this commission would be tasked with doing the following:

  • Hold public hearings on labor complaints.
  • To conduct studies and recommend actions with the aim to “maximize worker power.”
  • Recommend local legislation to restore public employee collective bargaining, and make private company unionization easier.
  • To call on all Durham businesses to set a $15 per hour minimum wage and require paid sick leave.
  • To help workers form unions using “all possible avenues” at the city’s disposal.

This commission has been driven by the City Council, not staff. The city manager’s office has pointed out a few flaws in the plan, including that a “public hearing” and “worker’s rights” are not defined, and that city governments do not have many of the powers Durham seeks to wield.

North Carolina, in fact, bans public employee collective bargaining. The state also prevents cities from setting minimum wages.

Because of that, the council’s proposal to form a Durham Workers’ Rights Commission appears to be more of a political statement and legislative agenda item than an actual

Longleaf Politics will follow the commission’s progress.

Cover image of downtown Durham by Matt Walter via Flickr (Creative Commons)


  1. Another example of the destructive side of political cycles – The Republicans work diligently to create economic prosperity in NC and once achieved the Democrats move to tear it down. Then we start over. The idea that public employee unions are a force for the good is about absurd a notion as can be imagined. Even FDR rejected them in the 1930’s New Deal era as being at odds with the political fabric of our nation. Check out some of the “achievements” of public employee unions:
    California pension and healthcare systems – bankrupt,
    Illinois pension and healthcare systems – bankrupt,
    New York systems – bankrupt,
    New Jersey systems – bankrupt, etc, etc, etc,
    I’m sorry Democrats, not going to happen in NC!


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