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Another reason to send Cherie Berry packing

An Observer investigation into worker compensation has provided yet another reason for N.C. voters to send Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry packing.

Ms. Berry has already shown she cares little about poultry workers who have been exploited by a dangerous industry.

Now, an Observer investigation has found the state Labor Department has sloughed off a law giving victims the right to recover their jobs and losses when wrongly fired. Under the leadership of Ms. Berry, the department has focused on settlements, not going after companies that break the law.

The report found, among other things:



Only a fraction of people who file claims get help.



Many state investigations consist only of an online questionnaire. Many dismissed workers aren't even interviewed.



The division that enforces the law, called the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, has had its funding cut under Ms. Berry.

REDA ought to be vigorously enforced, not pushed to the side. This is even more evidence Ms. Berry's not suited to hold an office that's bound by general statute to be a watchdog for workers.

A 22-month Observer investigation into poultry processing in the Carolinas found that lax regulations and weak oversight made it easy for that industry to get around a regulatory system that essentially lets companies police themselves.

Yet Ms. Berry, a Republican, said the department would “keep doing what we're doing because it's working.” There's nothing wrong with working cooperatively with businesses. But N.C. workers have no one at the department protecting them.

Mary Fant Donnan, a Democrat, gives voters a confident alternative. She served as director of research and policy for the Labor Department under former Commissioner Harry Payne, the most capable labor commissioner the state has had. She is well-prepared to enact reforms in the Labor Department. Voters should give her the opportunity Nov. 4.

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