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Special Screening of "Story of America: A Nation Divided"

August 8, 2013, doors open at 6:15 p.m., program starts at 7:00 p.m.
Motorco, 723 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, NC

Join us for a special film screening of clips from "Story of America: A Nation Divided" and town hall event co-sponsored with NC Justice Center. The Story of America is a unique documentary project from filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler that uses the transformative power of dialogue and storytelling to explore and heal the political, economic and cultural polarization of today's America.

Park and Byler have recently turned to North Carolina as the centerpiece of their upcoming feature documentary exploring the fundamental divisions and the political struggle throughout America. Through the film, they will tell the story of a state and its people—dramatically divided, yet yearning for a sense of unity and hope, a yearning that is creating a powerful grassroots movement with strong leadership and real potential for change.

Fifty years after the March on Washington and 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this is a good moment to ask ourselves some serious questions about where we are in our history—How much progress has been made? What are our values? How are we realizing them? What unites us as a state, a country and as a people?

We invite you to come be a part of the discussion and filmmaking process by watching clips from Park and Byler’s recent journeys across North Carolina and to participate in a filmed town hall as part of this unique documentary project as they explore the role of dialogue and deliberation in creating a more informed, engaged and united citizenry.

Doors open at 6:15 pm at Motorco Music Hall. The program will start at 7, followed by a social hour.

Space is limited, registration required. A tax-deductible donation of $10 is suggested. You may bring this contribution with you to the event, or contribute online after registering.

Special Screening of "American Winter"

June 4, 2013, screening starts at 7:00 p.m., panel discussion at 8:30 p.m.
Motorco, 723 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, NC

Join the NC Justice Center and the People's Alliance for a screening of the film "American Winter," an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of the economy as it is playing out in many American families, directed by Emmy award-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz (Taxicab Confessions, The Defenders).

Filmed over the course of one winter in Portland, Oregon, the documentary puts a face on the country’s economic challenges, and highlights the human impact of budget cuts to social services, a shrinking middle class, and the fracturing of the American Dream. The experiences of the families in American Winter are a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families across America, and right here in North Carolina.

This event is hosted by the North Carolina Justice Center, the state’s preeminent voice for economic, social and political justice, and the Durham People’s Alliance, a local citizen organization committed to social and economic justice, quality public education, a healthy environment, people-friendly economic development, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing.

The screening will be followed by a brief panel discussion about the state of economic mobility and opportunity in North Carolina, the current attacks on the safety net, and ways to get involved. Center Director Gene Nichol will serve on the panel.

Wage Theft in North Carolina

March 21, 2013, 12:00 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.
UNC School of Law, Classroom 5046

Wage theft takes money out of the pockets of workers, their families and communities. It creates an uneven playing field that favors bad actors and penalizes employers that follow the law. Sometimes the amounts stolen are small, but the overall impact of wage theft is huge.

In North Carolina in 2011-2012, the Department of Labor determined that 2,746 workers were owed more than $3.6 million in unpaid wages. Of course, this counts only those workers that filed complaints. The national cost of wage theft is staggering and vast--one pro-business organization estimates that the cost of wage theft for overtime violations alone is $19 billion a year.

In addition to not paying overtime, an employer can commit wage theft many ways:

  • by retaining the first paycheck as a "deposit" or refusing to hand over the last
  • docking paychecks for uniforms, equipment and other illegal deductions
  • forcing employees to work off the clock
  • stealing tips
  • paying less than agreed-upon wages or minimum wage
  • misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • simply refusing to pay workers

Wage theft occurs across industries and income levels, but it tends to be concentrated in low-wage work. Women, immigrants and minorities are more likely to fall victim. Recent cuts in many states mean that effectively, no one enforces laws protecting workers and unscrupulous employers can steal with impunity (for more the powerless of state agencies, read "Our wage theft epidemic" in Salon).

The law school's Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic and the NC Justice Center have both recently published reports on wage theft in North Carolina. Come hear Professor Deborah Weissman and Sabine Schoenbach discuss their findings and policy suggestions.

Picking Empty Pockets (PDF) (UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic report)

Wage Theft in North Carolina: The Hidden Crime Wave Robbing Workers and Communities (Workers' Rights Project, NC Justice Center)

About the Speakers

Deborah Weissman is Reef Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC School of Law. She was the Director of Clinical Programs from January 2001 through July 2010. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Syracuse University and graduated cum laude from Syracuse University Law School. Prior to teaching law, she has had extensive experience in all phases of legal advocacy, including labor law, family, education related civil rights, and immigration law in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tampa, Florida, and as a partner in a civil rights firm in Syracuse, New York. From 1994 to 1998, she was Deputy Director and then Executive Director at Legal Services of North Carolina. Professor Weissman's areas of expertise include access to the courts, civil rights, domestic violence, feminism/women's law/sexuality law, human rights, immigration and citizenship, poverty law, refugees, and women's issues.

Sabine Schoenbach is the Policy Analyst in the Worker's Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center. Sabine received a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, a master's degree from the University of Chicago, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. Before joining the Justice Center, Sabine was a Researcher and Public Policy Analyst at Legal Services of New Jersey's Poverty Research Institute. Sabine has also engaged in community outreach and low-wage workers rights advocacy at non-profit organizations in California and worked as a domestic violence prevention advocate in South Dakota.

The War on Working People in NC and Beyond: Why Labor Law Matters

March 5, 2013, 12:00 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.
UNC School of Law, Classroom 5042

The UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity will host MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, and Liz Shuler, National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, for a discussion of the legislature's war on labor in pushing for devastating cuts to unemployment benefits.

About the Speakers

MaryBe McMillan is Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, representing 130,000 union members throughout the state. With her election to this position in 2005, she became the first female officer history of the organization. In September 2009, she was elected by acclamation to a second term.

Prior to working for the AFL-CIO, she worked as Research Director for the Common Sense Foundation and as State Policy Analyst for theSchool & Community Trust. In 2006, Governor Easley appointed her to serve on the NC Commission on Workforce Development. She chaired the strategic planning committee of the Commission, and is now serving a second term on the Commission.

McMillan grew up in Hickory, North Carolina. She is a long-time social justice activist who became involved with union organizing as a student. She graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in sociology. She also holds a M.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Ph.D. in sociology from NC State University. She is a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 465 in Durham, North Carolina.

As a graduate of the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, Elizabeth (Liz) Shuler, like many young people today, pieced together part-time jobs, lived at home and struggled to find her way into the world of work. That was in 1992. Since then, Liz has used every job as an opportunity to stand up for the underdog. Today, as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, the second-highest position in the labor movement, Shuler serves as the chief financial officer of the federation and oversees six administrative departments.

Rising through the ranks from her first union position in Local 125 of the IBEW in Portland, Oregon, Shuler is not only is the first woman elected as the federation’s secretary-treasurer, she also holds the distinction of being the youngest officer ever to sit on the federation’s Executive Council. From her earliest days on the job in Portland, Liz displayed a commitment to excellence and professionalism that helped her succeed in all she undertook, often against daunting odds.

As unions and union members are under attack across the world, Shuler says it’s time to reconnect with the public on the basis of shared values and the importance and pride we all feel in our work. “After all,” she says, “work is what connects us all.” Shuler lives with her husband, David Herbst, in Washington, D.C.

"Economic Inequality and the Economy" hosted by the Durham People's Alliance

February 28, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
Motorco, 723 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham

Durham People’s Alliance will host its first 2013 Progressives Forum (PDF) on February 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Motorco. The evening’s topic, “Economic Inequality and the Economy,” will shed light on a range of issues related to poverty and jobs, with a focus on North Carolina. All are invited to learn about these topics from distinguished local speakers: Gene Nichol, UNC School of Law, Director of the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity; Rob Schofield, Director of Policy at NC Policy Watch; Sandy Darity, Professor of Public Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University; Jeff Ward, Lecturing Fellow and Supervising Attorney, Community Enterprise Clinic, Duke School of Law.

As North Carolina state government implements policies that will increase poverty, abandon the working poor, and leave many young adults and families stranded, what do the inequities in income and wealth look like here? What are the implications for the broader economy? What policies can simultaneously help people escape poverty and grow our economy? How can progressives organize in support of policies that support income equality and job creation? Following the panel, there will be time for questions and answers, legislative updates, and most importantly, the opportunity to socialize and connect with fellow progressives.

North Carolina Central University Constitution Day 2012, Inclusion/Exclusion: Poverty, Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation

September 17, 2012, 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Great Hall at NC Central University School of Law, 640 Nelson Street, Durham

In celebration of Constitution Day, NC Central University will be hosting a day-long teach-in that will explore the constitutional implications of social, political, and economic issues that are crucial to American Democracy. Poverty Center Director Gene Nichol will participate in an afternoon panel session from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. focused on healthcare. Other topics include voter suppression, immigration, education, and LGBTQ rights.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided. For more information, contact Dr. Jarvis Hall at 919.530.7256 or

Screening of the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour Documentary

September 24, 2012, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
UNC School of Law, Classroom 4004

Join us for a screening and discussion of the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour documentary, "Truth and Hope: The Challenge to Address Poverty in Our Communities," produced by Cash Michaels. Professor Gene Nichol will introduce the film and students and others who participated in the Tour will be encouraged to share their experiences.

The Truth and Hope Poverty Tour traveled over 2,000 miles to 27 communities on four separate trips to hear stories from North Carolinians who live in poverty. This is your opportunity to hear their stories and dialogue with others about the changes necessary to alleviate poverty in our state.

Truth and Hope Poverty Tour

For more information on the Poverty Tour, including press, video, and materials from past events, and information about our continuing work on this project, visit the Poverty Tour section of our website.

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