Banging loudly on red plastic buckets, low wage fast-food workers gathered under the golden arches of McDonald’s in downtown Durham Thursday to call attention to the dangerous work conditions at the restaurant.

One employee who was injured this month while working at the fast-food joint walked off the job to join the protesters.

About seventy-five people participated in the rhythmic clatter, punctuated by the makeshift drums, chants, and short speeches. Many held signs demanding safety at work.

Thursday’s protest was part of Raise Up NC/Fight for 15’s ongoing campaign calling on McDonald’s to protect its employees’ safety, address what they say is rampant sexual harassment, pay its workers $15 per hour and recognize workers’ right to organize a union

Small wonder that among the protesters were several former McDougald Terrace residents who spoke about their experiences while working at McDonald’s and living in the city’s largest and oldest public housing complex.

The short, late afternoon protest was in sharp focus and aligned with protests this week by current McDougald Terrace residents who were evacuated from their homes because of concerns over carbon monoxide exposure. 

As one former resident, Dayosha Davis, noted, a fast-food paycheck leaves one few options besides public housing. Davis worked full-time at McDonald’s while living at McDougald Terrace with her two children.

“It wasn’t an environment that I wanted to raise my family in, but McDonald’s poverty wages didn’t give me any other option,” she said. “Workers like me shouldn’t have to depend on public assistance to survive when we are working for huge companies like McDonald’s.”

At the center of the protest was Tyreek Harton, a young employee at the downtown McDonald’s was injured by a toaster and nearly lost his arm in the accident this month, according to NC Raise UP/Fight for 15.

Harton, 20, cut his hand on a sharp metal toaster that had previously hurt other workers, event organizers say.

Instead of seeking medical treatment, Harton’s manager allowed him to wrap his bleeding hand in a paper towel and go back to work. 

The manager on duty did not bother to write an accident report, according to the NC Raise Up press release.

McDonald’s officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Days later, Harton’s arm swelled with a serious infection. Upon arriving at the emergency room, a doctor told Harton had he waited a few more hours, his arm would have needed to be amputated.

Harton was in the hospital three days before returning to work.

Harton’s father, Keenan Harton, is also a fast-food workers. The elder Harton watched as his son lay in a hospital bed with IV’s in both arms.

“It was hard to see Tyreek’s life put in jeopardy because of McDonald’s greed,” he said. “This is why I am fighting for union rights–not just for me and my son, but for all workers. We need to be protected on the job.”

Harton was back at work Thursday afternoon and walked out of the fast-food on Morgan Street to join the protest.

He did not speak during the protest.