The Elevator Queen has decided to abdicate her throne, and we should all rejoice. Last week, North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry announced she thankfully won’t run for a sixth term in 2020. Berry, who in 2005 implemented a rule requiring her picture to be displayed in elevators statewide, is universally beloved by North Carolinians who have gotten accustomed to seeing her face every time they need a lift.
But Berry is not the hero that many perceive her to be. Throughout her time in office, it has been painfully obvious that Berry’s sympathies lie entirely with big businesses, not workers; she has always been willing to turn a blind eye to businesses who prioritize profits over people. In fact, Berry readily admits she is not a big fan of regulation — which is, in a word, ironic, considering the fact that her entire job revolves around it.
I present to you a list, titled “Five Reasons Why Cherie Berry’s Retirement is a Good Thing":
- Berry is unarguably corrupt. Donations from industries subject to regulation by the Department of Labor accounted for a third of all contributions to her re-election campaign. Even worse, those companies would receive significant fine reductions for workplace safety violations in exchange for their financial support.
- Berry refused to convene a safety advisory board – which, by law, is required to meet twice a year – for nearly five years, and only after The News & Observer published a story did it finally meet again. Furthermore, a 2008 investigation by The Charlotte Observer found that Berry’s enforcement of OSHA regulations for the poultry industry was incredibly lax, allowing poultry plants to get away with serious workplace hazards for years.
- Berry’s office failed to fight back against wage theft for years. In 2014, roughly 40 percent of workers who filed valid claims of wage theft didn't receive help they requested from the Department of Labor.
- In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the Department of Labor said that employers were well within their rights to fire workers for not showing up to work in hazardous conditions.
- Cherie Berry has literally advocated for the abolishment of the minimum wage. Need I say more?
Workers’ rights are an incredibly important issue, especially in an employment-at-will state such as North Carolina, where workers receive very little protection in the employment relationship. North Carolinians deserve a Labor Commissioner who will side with workers and hold employers accountable for their wrongdoing. It’s safe to say Berry is not that person — she never has been, and she never will be.