Durham is seeking applicants to serve on the newly formed Workers’s Rights Commission. The thirteen members selected will bring to fruition a long campaign to establish a commission that would advise the City Council on pro-worker policies.
The city is seeking representation from a specific set of constituencies. Along with at least two members from Durham’s largest workplaces, it aims to seat at least four members working in a low wage industry and seven members from various labor groups like trade unions. A City Council member will also sit on the commission as a non-voting liaison. Members will serve two-year terms, though the city limits their tenure to no more than three consecutive terms.
The City Council approved the formation and scope of the Workers’ Rights Commission on January 22. For more than a year prior, labor activists from the NC-AFL-CIO, Raise Up for $15, the Durham City Workers Union chapter of U.E. Local 150, graduate assistant and adjunct faculty members at Duke University, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance advocated for the necessity of such a body to inform city policy. Upon the commission’s approval, the NC-AFL-CIO released a statement applauding the city, saying the move shows that “city officials can raise the bar and take proactive steps to ensure that working people are treated fairly.” The labor organization believes the Durham commission is the first of its kind in the state, and among a handful of similar bodies throughout the country,
Despite limitations on what the city can do to compel Durham employers to treat workers better, council member Vernetta Alston previously told the INDY that she hopes the move shows workers that the city cares about them and the issues they encounter every day.
The commission will be tasked with crafting a Workers’ Bill of Rights detailing expectations for Durham employers in their treatment of labor. The commission will also work to advise the city council on how best to improve working conditions and hear grievances from Durham workers. However, the city is limited in its ability to enforce these recommendations given the preeminence of state law.
Read more about the application requirements on the city’s website.