The Rev. William Barber II was out of the state on Wednesday when demonstrators returned to the capital to continue the “Moral Monday” tradition of protests and rallies at the N.C. Legislative Building.
Their issue: Demonstrators urged lawmakers to raise the minimum wage in North Carolina to $10 an hour. They noted that 29 other states have set wage limits higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. They also pointed out that four Republican-led states – Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — have put such questions to the voters and they have been supported.
Gene Nichol, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor who has been a critic of recent legislative actions and an advocate for the state’s poorest residents, told the crowd that more than half the jobs created in North Carolina since the Great Recession offer wages that barely cover everyday bills. Few workers at the lowest rungs of the pay ladder are “after big government programs,” he said. “They want wages they can live on in exchange for a difficult and demanding day’s work. They want to have a chance to advance and make economic progress.”
A new practice: This year, the protesters have created what they call a “Hall of Shame.” Their inductees on Wednesday were Gov. Pat McCrory, Phil Berger, the N.C. Senate president pro tempore, and Tim Moore, speaker of the N.C. House. The protesters contend the three Republicans advocate for policies that help businesses at the expense of workers.
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GOP response: “It is clear that the big labor unions are taking aim at North Carolina and using Moral Mondays to try to undo or weaken right to work laws and reverse the progress being made to create jobs under Republican leadership,” said Claude Pope, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party. “We must do everything possible to protect our right to work status, which ensures more economic freedom, opportunity and jobs for our citizens, and reject their pro-union, big-government, high tax agenda.”
More arrests: Ten people were arrested and charged with trespassing inside the Legislative Building on Wednesday.