Thursday, April 05, 2007

Civil Rights

Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate introduced resolutions expressing "profound regret" for slavery and legalized racial segregation. "It's a part of our time that is difficult to confront, of course, but in this way and time it should be confronted," said Sen. Rand, Senate Bill sponsor and the Senate's Democratic majority leader. House Speaker Joe Hackney is also supportive of the bill, which he says will have a “healing” purpose. Legislatures in Virginia and Maryland recently approved similar resolutions.

The state House voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a bill that Representatives Luebke, Coates, Jones, and I sponsored which would require the state to divest its holdings in companies that do business or have strong ties to the Sudanese government. That government is accused of genocide and human rights abuses in the Darfur region. North Carolina would be the first state in the Southeast to enact such a ban if the bill becomes law. State Treasurer Richard Moore has already taken steps on his own to sell the state’s holdings in nine companies that have done business with Sudan.

Activists working on behalf of government workers want lawmakers to abolish a nearly 50-year-old law that prevents state employees from bargaining collectively. The law allows state employees to join unions and associations, but prohibits them from being represented by such groups during contract negotiations. The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, ruled recently that North Carolina's laws violate principles of freedom of association and the right of unions to seek improved conditions for their members. North Carolina and Virginia are the only states that specifically prohibit state and local governments from collectively bargaining with their employees.

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