Please vote for John Brooks for Labor Commissioner -


My name is Chris Telesca and I am a progressive Democrat. I am a precinct chair in Wake County, a delegate to the State Convention, a member of the SEC, and the Outreach Chair Advisor for the Wake County Progressive Democrats, and a member of the Progressive Democrats of NC PAC. I am asking you to vote next Tuesday (or even before) for John Brooks for Commissioner of Labor. Go check out his website at

John Brooks is a long-time Democrat who is also very progressive to boot! He helped found the Wake County Progressive Democrats with an old labor lion and Democratic activist named P.R. Latta. Do you suppose P.R. would not only endorse John's campaign but work hard to get him elected if John Brooks wasn't the best and most pro-labor candidate?

In his four terms as Labor Commissioner, John Brooks did more for working people in North Carolina than any commissioner before him or since him - and that includes former Commissioner Payne. There are more pro-labor precedents in the case law books under John's name than under any other commissioner - go check it out in the law library to make sure!

You have probably heard other candidates and the news media harp on John about the Hamlet fire. But did you know that the Imperial Chicken Processing Plant was never registered with the Secretary of State's office - and that is now OSHA knows what companies are doing business in the state. Without being listed, Imperial was like one big illegally-operated business. But if fire and building codes (and violations) been a part of OSHA standards, and if workman's comp claims would have been shared with the DOL, we would have known about the Imperial plant because of the fires, accidents and injuries that took place there before the fire. John Brooks fought for those things before the 1991 fire, but the pro-business General Assembly didn't want to deal with it UNTIL it was too late. The fire and building code became part of OSHA standards right after the 1991, but Harry Payne canceled them as one of the first things he did as Labor Commissioner. I would be curious to know if Ms. Donan had any role to play in researching and/or recommending the removal of the fire and building codes from OSHA standards?

And while we know that Berry is a disaster, what else did Payne do as Labor Commissioner? It's no surprise that the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (the law that was passed in the wake of the Hamlet fire) is not being enforced by Berry, but what did Payne do with it?

History of the NC Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA)

The North Carolina Department of Labor is charged by statute with enforcing the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act [“REDA”] (N.C.G.S. §95-240 through §95-245), which may be found at

REDA is one of several laws enacted after the disastrous 1991 Imperial Food Products fire in which 25 employees were killed and 49 employees were injured. An investigation found numerous violations of the various laws designed to protect workers. Prior to REDA becoming effective on Oct.1, 1992, the N.C. Occupational Safety and Health Act, the N.C. Wage and Hour Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, and the Workers' Compensation Act all had provisions protecting workers who filed claims or complaints. At that time, the enforcement of these laws was handled by the different government agencies.

The passage of REDA brought the enforcement all of these worker protection provisions under a single agency, the N.C. Department of Labor. The department's Employment Discrimination Bureau administers REDA. Thus, workers and employers deal with a single state agency that provides technical assistance, answers questions, and investigates complaints made by workers. Workers can file written complaints with the EDB if they feel they have been retaliated or discriminated against because they have engaged in activities protected under the Workers' Compensation Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, sickle cell or hemoglobin C carriers, participation in the National Guard, participating in the Juvenile Justice Act process, genetic testing requests or information, and domestic violence victims. The EDB then conducts impartial investigations of all complaints to determine if a REDA violation exists.

I can tell you from personal experience that Payne's DOL did nothing with my REDA complaint - or anyone else's for that matter. By the time he left DOL, there was no case law to guide plaintiff's labor lawyers in how to deal with REDA cases - because Payne's office did note even follow the directions for investigating employment discrimination in the OSHA 11(C) manual, or even the guidelines set by the EEOC for prosecuting federal discrimination cases. The laws are very similar - but plaintiff's labor lawyers can't afford to do the precedent-setting work that our state should have done, but did not.

I felt that Harry Payne was a little too deferential to employers when enforcing labor laws. He's doing the same thing over at the ESC, where our unemployment insurance fund is severely underfunded. So I don't place a lot of stock in Payne's record or endorsements.

What about those other endorsements? I feel that Donan got the endorsement of the AFL-CIO more because of Payne's personal relationship with Chris Scott than for anything Payne or Donan did for labor. Endorsements from other groups are probably due to Donan's work with Z. Smith Reynolds than for anything she did at the DOL. And I expect that the newspaper endorsements - at least from the McClatchy papers - comes from Payne being married to Ruth Sheehan than on any objective look at the record. Hell - all the Triangle Indy can say about John Brooks is harp on the Hamlet fire - and even they ought to know better.

I have seen both of them speak, and it was evident even to a die-hard liberal like Mark Ortiz that John Brooks would be the better choice because he has more experience enforcing labor laws than Donan.

Please vote for John Brooks for Labor Commissioner. I voted for him back in the day - and he's getting my vote this year. Go check out his site at

Chris Telesca


I'll repost a question

that I asked (and was not answered) from the other thread:

Do you plan to continue
Submitted by scharrison on Wed, 06/18/2008 - 10:46am.
the practice of deciding which workplace hazard complaints are worth more than a phone call?

Although every employee has a right to request an onsite inspection if certain conditions are met, there are times when a phone/fax (or letter) investigation may be a better alternative. This approach enables OSHNC to respond quickly to lower-priority hazards, and enables the agency to concentrate resources on the most serious workplace hazards.

It might be a stupid question, and it's entirely possible it was merely overlooked on the other thread. But Steve hates being ignored. ;(

Labor Commissioner

While Mr. Brooks may have done good things during his prior terms as Labor Commissioner, his time has past. We need a strong candidate who can work effectively with others. Mary Fant Donnan is that candidate.

How can you say his time has "passed"?

Are you an "ageist" who doesn't believe that people should be allowed to work at something they are good at once they get beyond a certain age?

Or do you believe that Mary Donnan is somehow entitled to that office by virtue of her younger age? Or do you think that for a Labor Commissioner to work effectively with others, that person has to learn to compromise with worker safety for some other purpose?

How far do you compromise on worker safety? Do you say that the next guy's limbs and health are fine to sacrifice for jobs in NC - but you want a strong commissioner when your nuts are on the line? I say that not to be funny, but to be serious - the life and reproductive health of working people are on the line every day. All a Labor Commissioner has to do is be a passionate advocate for working people - he doesn't have to suck up to Corporate America.

The Labor Commissioner functions as a specialized attorney general for labor issues, enforcing both state and federal labor laws. John Brooks has been an attorney for years - Mary Donnan is not an attorney.

After the May primary, when both candidates were able to speak for longer periods of time, the differences between the candidates were made very clear. John has specific ideas on how to get people in NC back to work safely, where their rights will be respected. John isn't worried about recruiting for jobs in NC - his job is to be a passionate advocate for working people in NC.

Other people besides myself who have heard both candidates speak have stated that they feel Mary Donnan will be more of an "establishment" candidate. While no Democrat could ever be as awful of a Labor Commissioner than Cherie Berry, working North Carolinians ought to be more concerned about who would be their best friend at DOL.

I have been involved in the Wake County Democratic party since 2004, and with the Wake Progressives for almost tbat long. Do you know who started the group that became the Wake Progressives? Two long-time friends - one former Labor Commissioner Brooks, and the other is long-time labor activist P.R. Latta - who marched in picket lines and was attacked by corporate stooges. P.R. is supporting John Brooks based on his long history of really caring about the rights of working people.