Name as it appears on the ballot: Robin Anderson
Date of Birth: June 18, 1958
Campaign Web Site: www.andersonforlabor.org
Occupation & Employer: Attorney, Nicholls & Crampton, PA
Years lived in North Carolina: 22
1.What do you see as the most important issues facing the Department of Labor and working people in North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The single most important issue for the Commissioner of Labor is protecting working families in North Carolina. The incumbent has spent her time in office appeasing bad businesses and reducing inspections. To protect our workers we have to be proactive in enforcing the laws to avoid any more heartbreaking stories such as the one told about workers of the House of Raeford in recent investigations by the media.
My top priorities in protecting working families would be to proactively investigate bad businesses, enforce the law to ensure businesses change bad practices, and work with the legislature for new laws surrounding the issues facing working families such as the minimum wage, migrant housing and ergonomic standards.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues youve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
I have spent the last 18 years as an employment attorney representing workers and businesses in matters such as wage and hour, discrimination and retaliation, all of which are regulated by the Department of Labor.
Also, in 1999 I was appointed by the State Senate to serve on the State Personnel Commission; and I was appointed in 2003 by Governor Easley as the first woman to serve as the Chair of the Commission. As such, for the past 9 years, as a Commissioner in State Personnel, I have shaped workplace policy for almost 100,000 state employees.
No other candidate has the same range of policy and enforcement experience. North Carolina needs someone who can enforce the laws to protect workers rights; who can promote training and education; and who can advocate for improved protective legislation concerning job safety and health.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a Democrat, but it is my hope that the issues I will be talking about during this campaign will transcend normal party politics. I do not think that keeping workers safe is a Democratic or Republican issue. In the same way, I think Democrats and Republicans should both be outraged at the arrogance and incompetence shown by the incumbent over the past 7 years brought to the forefront with her recent refusal to begin enforcing the laws of this state following the investigations into the House of Raeford.
For more information on my present campaign platform please reference both my website, at www.andersonforlabor.org and the press releases that I have attached.
4. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
One of the largest sources of inequality in our society comes from income inequality. Currently a worker who works full time for an entire year at minimum wage earns approximately 55% of the poverty level for a family of four. Our country was founded on the idea that if you worked hard you would get ahead, and we must ensure that an honest days work gets you an honest days pay. As such I would support a raise in the minimum wage and tying the minimum wage to inflation.
Further, as Commissioner it would be my priority to fully prosecute wage and hour violations to ensure that workers are paid what they have earned and are not taken advantage of by companies looking to pad their profit.
5. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I would support abolishing the death penalty in North Carolina.
6. If these issues havent been addressed above, would you please comment on:
Workplace health: Recent reports have identified serious problems in some of North Carolinas poultry- and hog-slaughtering factories. What changes would you make to the Labor Departments practices in this area? What policy changes would you advocate at the General Assembly? What is the best way to ensure that these plants quickly come into compliance? What is the role of financial penalties in forcing companies to comply with the law? What dollar amounts do you think would incent companies to comply?
Migrant labor: What more should the Labor Department be doing to assure decent working and living conditions for migrant workers, including farmworkers?
Jobs: Are there steps your department should be taking to help the working people of North Carolina move up the ladder i.e., secure and retain better jobs at better pay?
The first and most important change that I would make is that I would be moreproactive in inspecting companies the incumbent has been reactive, onlyinvestigating after problems occur. I would pro-actively investigate companiesand do spot inspections, particularly of companies with the highest risk of injury. I would also refuse to negotiate fines with companies who violate safetymeasures and place employees in a dangerous situation.
The current incumbent has said that she does not believe fines work. I know that if they are applied justly they are vital to ensuring that businesses change their practices.
As with other workplaces, we need to be more proactive in conducting inspections and enforcing the laws. However, as Commissioner I would also push hard for new legislation that is necessary to ensure housing that is adequate and decent for working families.
I support increasing the minimum wage and tying the increase to inflation. The Department of Labor also overseas a job training and apprenticeship program that should be expanded and strengthened. As Commissioner I would push for better wages, I would enforce the laws protecting wage and hour for working families and I would level the playing field to encourage honest businesses to create new jobs in North Carolina.
7. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?
As outlined in HB 1583, I would support giving public employees the ability to collectively bargain. I support a change in the law because I believe that all workers should be provided the same protections in the workplace.
8. Turnover and short-staffing in the compliance division and wage and hour bureau continues to be a problem for the department. How would you address these personnel issues? What are the ramifications of the turnover and short-staffing? What funding would be necessary and how would you make the case for a larger appropriation from the legislature? If no additional funding is appropriated, how would you keep up with the caseload?
When a Department has high turnover the department loses the institutional knowledge needed to be able to complete the necessary investigations and issue citations, if appropriate, in a timely manner. The turnover and short staffing causes a backlog of complaints within the department, but more importantly postpones a resolution for North Carolina workers.
As Chair of the State Personnel Commission I have worked hard to help protect the employees of this state. Having set the internal policies that help to keep state employees I have a working knowledge of what internal steps need to be taken within both the Department of Labor and the State to slow turnover. I also know that the employees of the Department of Labor are more than capable of doing the job, so long as they are not handcuffed by the Commissioner.
9. As member of the Council of State, you would have input on the issue of the death penalty, including the execution protocol, which was taken up by the Council last year. Do you feel qualified to vote on such issues? If so, how would you vote on the execution protocol and other death penalty matters that may come before the Council? And is the Council of State an appropriate body to deliberate these issues?
I believe I am the only candidate for a Council of State office who has represented a death row inmate in a North Carolina death penalty appeal. Early in my career as a lawyer, I volunteered over 500 pro bono hours on a state appeal. I support abolishing the death penalty. Nevertheless, this is a legislative matter; however, I would continue to work towards an end to the death penalty in North Carolina.