Early Monday morning, a group of approximately one hundred protesters gathered at the McDonald’s on Guess Road to strike for a $15 wage and a union for fast-food workers.
The strike was part of a nationwide effort by the Fight for 15 campaign in honor of Labor Day. In cities across the United States, workers went on strike in order to put pressure on both businesses and cities to increase wages.
In Durham, police cars hung out in the parking lot of the Popeye’s across the street. Sympathetic cars honked as they passed, but just as many cars did a slow drive-by as they curiously rolled down their window to hear the chants of the protesters or to read the signs thrusted high into the air.
During the strike, local fast food workers spoke to the gathered crowd about their working conditions and the importance of a living wage.
Members of the Duke Graduate Student Union, Faculty Forward, and the Democratic Socialists were all present.
“We identify strongly with Fight for 15 and a union, because we are also in a similar situation where our employer simply doesn’t think that we have the right to a union, so, like them, we have to organize in nontraditional ways,” said Mike Burrows, a graduate student in public policy and an organizer with the Graduate Student Union at Duke University.
Burrows also noted that today’s strike was particularly meaningful to full-time and contract workers at Duke who recently won a $15 minimum wage—a demand that Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity had made during the Allen Building protests in April 2016. The university plans to implement their wage increases over a two-year span, with the $15 wage promised by 2019.
An afternoon rally in downtown Durham was also part of the local Fight for 15 campaign. Organizers estimate that a few hundred people were present for the rally where Durham Council member Jillian Johnson, NC AFL-CIO union secretary-treasurerMaryBe McMillan, and others spoke.
(Full disclosure: I attended the strike in solidarity with the living wage campaign.)