As part of a global day of protest for higher wages, workers from several industries across North Carolina convened in Durham last night for a Fight for 15 rally at the McDonald’s on Morgan Street.
During the morning rush, around seventy or eighty workers, according to strike worker Abdul-Jalil Rasheed-Burnette, an employee at a Durham Bojangles’, went on strike for a fifteen-dollar minimum wage and union rights, followed by a noon panel at NCCU in Durham. And at about five p.m., a couple of hundred protesters—fast-food workers, child-care professionals, city employees, and the recently unionized Duke “non-regular faculty—shut down the block for a rally.
After the rally, the protesters marched to the Durham jail to honor Jeffrey Pendleton, a Manchester, New Hampshire Burger King employee who passed away in jail after not being able to pay $100 for bail. The rally also protested HB 2; a huge banner in the middle of the street read “Repeal HB 2 Now” and “Black Lives Matter.” As the National Employment Law Project found last year, women and people of color are “overrepresented in jobs paying less than $15 an hour.”
In addition to representatives of farm workers, childcare workers, fast-food employees, city employees, and the Duke faculty, a representative from Southerners on New Ground spoke about the impact of HB 2 and solidarity between the LGBTQ community and the workers fighting for $15 and a union.
“We have been friends and allies of this struggle for so long,” said SONG’s Jade Brooks. “[HB 2] is about shrinking dignity and access for all of our communities. This bill is a trojan horse. They took the fear and hatred of our trans community, and they pushed through an anti-worker bill.”
The rally was headlined by North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber.
“This is a moral and economic fight,” he said. “In this country, the majority of the states that are poor are in the South, and the majority of the politicians that vote against living wages are in the South. That’s why the South must rise, but not like it rose in the days of slavery and Jim Crow … There must be new rising of justice for workers across the South.”
Barber also spoke out against HB 2, which he’s said he will lead a “mass sit-in” against if the legislature doesn’t repeal it.
“Don’t ever call that a bathroom bill,” Barber said. “It is an outhouse bill, because a lot of what’s in it, you leave in the outhouse.”
Barber tied the minimum wage debate to slavery and the civil rights movement. “It took from 1619 to 1938 to get to twenty-five cents, and it’s taken four hundred years for some to get from twenty-five cents to $7.25,” he said. “We have been waiting long enough.”
“Don’t you give up this fight,” he concluded. “What you are fighting for is long overdue. For some of us, we’ve been waiting four hundred years, and as Dr. King used to say, we are the head waiters in line, and it’s time for the wait to be over.”