Carrboro Commons

H.O.P.E. coalition looks to repeal law

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 in Business,Employment by jock

By Michael Bloom
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Only North Carolina and Virginia have a law like this. And North Carolina’s has been around since 1969.

North Carolina General Statute 95-98 makes contracts between levels of government and labor unions, trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees illegal, according to the North Carolina General Assembly’s text of the law. In other words, collective bargaining between public employers and their employees is prohibited.

Marchers walk down Franklin Street during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally and march in Chapel Hill on Jan. 17. (Photo by Lydia Wilson)

The Hear Our Public Employees coalition – H.O.P.E. – and its 11 core partner organizations is trying to repeal the law.

“With the law in effect, it creates very few avenues for public employers and employees to share common interests and ultimately resolve them,” said Tom Harris, a member of the steering committee of H.O.P.E. “It just makes things less collaborative.”

Harris questions why private employers are allowed to bargain collectively with their employees while public employees are denied the same right. He said repealing the law would provide the option for a more formal process between colleagues where they could iron out differences.

H.O.P.E. says that the law has denied public employees such as teachers, firefighters and police officers the ability to use traditional methods to improve their working conditions and benefits – or maintain them.

Center fights for Carrboro day laborers’ human rights

Posted on February 18th, 2010 in Economy,Employment,Features,Latino Issues,Town government by jock

By Latisha Catchatoorian

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

On a sunny, yet chilly day, Latino men are huddled outside of Abbey Court Condominiums or the BP gas station across the street on Jones Ferry Road.  Some of these day laborers are residents of Abbey Court, which also serves as the location of The Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, led by Director Judith Blau.

Alfonso Hernandez, 19, a volunteer at the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, shows some members of the local Latino population.  The Center focuses on helping the community as a whole, not restricted to just Latinos or any other group. Recently, protection of day laborers and their rights has been a focus of the Center. Staff Photo By Latisha Catchatoorian

Alfonso Hernandez, 19, a volunteer at the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, shows some members of the local Latino population. The Center focuses on helping the community as a whole, not restricted to just Latinos or any other group. Recently, protection of day laborers and their rights has been a focus of the Center. (Staff Photo By Latisha Catchatoorian)

“Vans just pick people up and hire them for the day,” Blau said.  “It happens across the U.S.  Standing out in the freezing rain, snow, ice, is just wrong. No one should have to do that, anywhere.”

The center proclaims that human rights are for all people with no exceptions.  Recently the center has been advocating the passage of new legislation to protect the rights and wages of day laborers in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. This is part of the center’s mission, as one of its goals is to “go to bat” for those who face discrimination in these towns.

Day laborers, who are often hired for jobs that vary on a day-to-day basis, are sometimes denied pay.  Pay could be denied for projects that are a day’s work or for projects that take a few weeks.  The center has been petitioning the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to make such an exploitation, which is currently a civil offense, into a criminal act.

“All people are entitled to protection on the job, to good wages, to acceptable hours,” said Blau.  “The way the state law reads now, it’s only a civil offense to violate the labor rights of undocumented workers. To put some teeth into that law, we are posing it be a criminal offense.”

Many of these laborers are undocumented workers in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.  But Blau said according to federal labor laws, there is no distinction for protection between those who are documented and those who are not.

These workers simply wait and hope for any work they are lucky enough to obtain.

Blau said that many workers started coming to Rafael Gallegos, the assistant director of the center, telling him that they worked for two weeks and weren’t paid. Or that they were getting such low wages that they couldn’t possibly survive on them. Or that they were injured on the job and employers weren’t taking care of their medical expenses.

“These are all violations of national legal protections, but because employers know that the day laborers and other poor people are unlikely to go to the small claims court and go through the procedures of getting compensation, they get by with it,” Blau said. “For Carrboro to pass this ordinance would be a fantastic advance.”

Gallegos is a sociology graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, originally from Delicias, Chihuahua, Mexico.  His thesis, which is on day laborers, specifically concentrates on those in Carrboro.

People with disabilities find work in Carrboro

By Sarah Shah
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Every Wednesday morning, Luke Glatz collects raffle tickets from people attending a business leaders meeting. Later, he reads out ticket numbers to announce the lucky winners.

shah_evfinal.jpg Luke Glatz, 20, collects a raffle ticket from Margaret Cannell, executive director of the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce, at Extraordinary Ventures. Luke is just one of 18 people with disabilities employed by Extraordinary Ventures, located at 200 S. Elliot Road in Chapel Hill.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah.

Despite having a developmental disability, the 20-year-old Glatz is one of the young adults who are employed at Extraordinary Ventures.

The Arc, the world’s largest community based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, estimates that the unemployment rate for people with developmental disabilities is nearly 75 percent.

Extraordinary Adventures is a Chapel Hill non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities ages 15 years and up.

“It’s important for them to have a sense of accomplishment, and know that they are worth something,” director of Extraordinary Ventures, Marc Roth said.

Roth said he rents out a 3,000 square feet conference center in Chapel Hill at which businesses and organizations can conduct meetings. The proceeds go directly to the employment of young adults with disabilities, who work at the center by helping to set up and clean up for events.

Coworking offers flexible, affordable workspace

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in Employment,Features,Lifestyles by jock

By Kelsey Kusterer
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

The sign of a successful executive used to be the large corner office with windows, but for many companies and individuals, a shaky economy is changing the look of the workplace in the U.S.

kusterer_coworkersfinal.jpg(R to L) Robarn Danzman, owner and founder of Aberdium Consulting, LLC, explains a diagram of marketing techniques for small businesses to Matt Duquette, web designer at 12 Grain Studio. Carrboro Creative Coworking offers clients the ability to host meetings in addition to providing individual work spaces.
Photo courtesy of Carrboro Creative Coworking

Coworking, a national movement toward shared office space, has begun to take hold in Carrboro. Nationally these coworking spaces come in a variety of forms, but the main premise is to offer freelance professionals and small business owners the choice to rent desks, offices or conference rooms based on their individual needs.

“Coworking provides a bridge between working at home and having your own office,” said Brian Russell, a Chapel Hill resident and owner of Carrboro Creative Coworking, located at 205 Lloyd St.

Russell got the idea to start his coworking business after perusing the Internet and investigating other coworking companies like Citizen Space in San Francisco. Initially, he did not intend to start a coworking business. But after working with James Harris, community and economic development director for Carrboro, Russell began developing a business plan. Carrboro Creative Coworking opened to clients last fall.

“The Carrboro Creative Coworking business model is based on the idea to support, strengthen and build communities within a fiscal community like Carrboro,” Russell said.

Job seekers turn to job search adviser

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in Carrboro Connections,Economy,Employment by jock

By Sarah Shah
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Jennifer Hartzog, a marketing and communications specialist from Chapel Hill, said she was eliminated from her job at a publishing company last November.

And Bruce Gingerich, a product line manager from Pittsboro, said he was recently laid off by his company, which has gone through a few downsizes.

shahkomives1final.jpg Bob Emslie (left), a software development professional from Carrboro, consults with Mike Komives, a career and job search adviser whose office is located at 605 W. Main St. in Carrboro. Komives said he’s been helping a lot more people as a result of the economic downturn.Staff photo by Sarah Shah.

With the February unemployment rate in North Carolina soaring to a record 10.7 percent, according to a North Carolina Employment and Securities Commission report, Hartzog and Gingerich are just two of many people turning to networking opportunities and professional job search advisers like Mike Komives for help.

“I help people search for jobs in this tough environment,” said Komives, a Carrboro-based career and job search adviser. “And now, I am finding out how elastic I am. I’m really going 24/7 and helping a lot more people.”

Komives said he often hosts workshops such as the one held at St. Thomas More Church in Chapel Hill on March 28th devoted to the topic of interviewing.

The workshop, which had more than 30 people in attendance, featured four human resources professionals from places like GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Duke University’s Fuquay School of Business.

“What they did was talk about all the process of interviewing, how to prepare for it, how to conduct it and what to do after,” Komives said.

First, though, each person had to give a “thirty-second elevator speech” describing his or her current job situation.

Komives said many people who have recently been let go are afraid to talk about it, and are bitter and embarrassed.

“They’re afraid to talk about it, and they really should not be because they are not alone,” he said. “The best thing to do is say, ‘hey, I got let go and I am valuable, I have skills and I am very productive.’”

shahkomivesfinal2.jpg Wyatt Isabel (seated left to right), a product manager, Melissa Park, a public health researcher, and Sonya Cato, an environmental engineer all from Chapel Hill conduct a mock interview as facilitator Teri de Leon from Duke Univiersity’s Fuqua School of Business provides feedback. The mock interview was part of a St. Joseph Jobs Network workshop held at St. Thomas More Church in Chapel Hill on March 28th. The workshop, attended by more than 30 people, focused on the process of interviewing.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah

Attendees also got to participate in mock interviews with one another. “It was good that I could go into a mock interview and now I can go home and reflect on it,” Gingerich said.

Gingerich added that he’s known Komives for three years and now sees him on a regular basis. “He’s been very helpful, and he kind of prods you along,” he said.

Komives, a self-described “glass half-full kind of person,” said part of his job is building confidence and empowering people. “The job search is emotionally the pits at first,” he said. “So it’s important to talk about strengths, motivations and values.”

Komives added that it was also extremely important for job seekers to network as much as possible. “You know more people than you think,” he said. “And there are a lot of good groups out there like TAFU [To Avoid Future Unemployment] and the Triangle Networking Group.”

Sujan Joshi, a senior communications major at UNC-Chapel Hill from Raleigh, said she planned on networking more. “It’s really unfortunate that I’m graduating at a time when there are so few people hiring,” she said.

Nonetheless, she remained optimistic and confident. “The good thing is that there’s help on the way, and things can only get better,” she said.