This story first published online at NC Policy Watch. 

McDonald’s workers across the Raleigh-Durham area organized a strike on Wednesday as part of a national campaign to demand a $15 minimum wage and a union. 

“I have a little sister and a family that I take care of making $9.25 an hour,” Nashoun Blount, a Raleigh McDonald’s worker, said. “This is not enough, y’all. This is not enough. We have to come out here and stand and protest just to let McDonald’s know that we are serious about what we deserve in this country.” 

The workers, organizing through a variety of advocacy organizations, such as the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, La Sembra and The Fight for 15, gathered outside the Guess Road McDonald’s to chant, display signs, and deliver testimonies about the need to increase wages. 

Cars emblazoned with signs saying “Fight for 15” and “15 for NC” drove around the store’s parking lot, honking in support of the speakers and joining in chants of “We work. We sweat. Put 15 on our checks.” 

The strike, which occurred in 15 cities across the country, comes the day before McDonald’s holds its annual shareholder’s meeting. Employees hope to draw attention to the fact that McDonald’s made $5 billion in profit during the pandemic, while never raising wages for its American employees. 

“They gave it to their shareholders instead of giving us raises,” Precious Cole, a McDonald’s worker at the event, said. “Honestly, I don’t know why they’re resisting, because they have the money—they can do it now.”

Describing long hours with no breaks, inadequate COVID-19 protections, and an unsympathetic corporate culture, speakers drew a sharp contrast between the family-friendly “best first job” image they say McDonald’s portrays and the harsh, underpaid reality they endure at work. 

McDonald’s workers also went on strike last year in response to the company’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers in 20 U.S. cities protested for better working conditions, including more access to personal protective equipment. McDonald’s called it a “publicity stunt.” 

In April of this year, McDonald’s announced it will raise the minimum wage to $11 for entry-level workers and $15 for shift leaders in its corporate locations. However, this change will only affect 5 percent of their American stores, and employees say that’s not nearly enough. 

“When we lift from the bottom, everyone rises,” Ana Blackburn, a member of the N.C. Poor People’s Campaign, said. “But if you live in a society where your leaders value corporations over people, while stripping workers of their dignity by denying them a living wage, then they perpetuate the systemic poverty that exists in these United States.”

The McDonald’s corporation has not yet responded to the nationwide strikes.