Chanting “I believe that we will win,” about two dozen low-wage workers and supporters rallied outside the downtown McDonald’s Wednesday and called for a statewide fast-food workers strike April 15.
They also announced a rally at 5 p.m. April 15 at Shaw University in Raleigh to demand $15 an hour wages and freedom to unionize for low-wage workers in home care, universities, retail and other occupations as well as fast food.
“This is our moment,” said George Hargrove. “I’ve been working for McDonald’s in the food industry for 12 years, and I’m currently making $8 an hour.
“No hard-working person in this country should be trying to make it on $8 an hour,” said Hargrove, who emceed the demonstration and introduced the speakers.
Wednesday’s rally was organized by a group called Raise Up NC, part of the national “Fight for $15” campaign calling for strikes and protests nationwide April 15.
Hargrove, from Raleigh, said he thought the Durham rally was the only one in North Carolina on Wednesday, “but there’s one in New York City, one in Atlanta; it’s all over the place.”
He said the Durham McDonald’s was picked as the rally site because it is in “downtown in the middle of Durham” and because previous Raise Up demonstrations had been held there.
Wednesday’s 25-minute rally was confined to the sidewalk beside the downtown Loop. There was no effort to obstruct traffic, as happened during a Sept. 4, 2014, protest that led to more than 20 arrests.
Besides Hargrove, speakers included Ebony Watkins, a UNC student; Nancy Kalow, a part-time faculty member at Duke University; Dacia Hill, a child-care worker in Raleigh; and Ebbini✔ Harris, a home-care worker from Durham.
The diversity illustrated the Raise Up movement’s expansion to occupations besides fast food
“College is more expensive than ever,” Watkins said. “The scary truth is there isn’t any guarantee that we will secure a job with a salary large enough for us to live comfortably when we graduate.”
Kalow, who teaches at the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, said three-quarters of college teaching faculties are part-time or adjunct and are paid an average of $20,000 a year.
“Thousands of workers who are educators with advanced degrees are living in poverty with few benefits and no job security,” Kalow said.
“Every week is a struggle,” said Harris. “Me, as a worker who cares for our loved ones, can barely afford to care for my own family – which is really wrong.”
Curtis Gatewood, coordinator of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition of the N.C. NAACP, also spoke, calling the planned April 15 protests “the largest low-wage protest in U.S. history.”
“We are here to support April 15,” Gatewood said, likening Raise Up and its ally organizations to a quilt “used to provide warmth for the vulnerable citizens who are being left out into the cold of ... wages which are not enough for survival.”
Such wages, he said, are “economically inhumane and economically insane.”