Before the law, local governments could require government-hired contractors to abide by labor standards, which include wages, hours and benefits. To do so, government entities were required to meet the same standards.
Following legislators’ rewriting of parts of the Wage and Hour Act in House Bill 2, subdivisions of the state government no longer have this ability.
Carol Brooke, a staff attorney with the N.C. Justice Center, said cities like Durham and Asheville had enacted laws which required contractors hired by the city to pay a living wage before the passage of the law.
“I think this bill was probably squarely aimed at those local provisions, and obviously it’s going to prevent other progressive communities from doing something similar,” Brooke said.
During the last election, 21 states and 22 cities decided to increase the minimum wage, but North Carolina’s minimum wage remained at the federal level of $7.25 an hour.
T. William Lester, an associate professor of city and regional planning at UNC, said North Carolina is one of many states that has seen an increase in income inequality driven by rising incomes of the highly educated and the expansion of low-wage work.
Many cities and counties across the country have responded to rising income inequality by changing labor standards set by the state, but local governments in North Carolina have been limited in their response, Lester said.
“We see a similar pattern of inequality but we don’t see the same kinds of responses to ameliorate that,” he said.