DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – At 6 a.m. Monday, dozens of Durham workers, many from fast food restaurants, walked out of their jobs for a nationwide protest to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Employees could be heard chanting, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” Alongside that chant was the mantra, “We’re fired up, can’t take it no more.”
Monday’s protest is part of an initiative known as Fight for $15, which dates back to 2012, when two New York City employees walked off the job in a fight for better benefits.
On the Labor Day holiday, employees told WNCN they want an increase to the minimum wage and to earn union rights.
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Abdul-Jalil Rasheed-Burnette clocked in 18 years for the fast food industry.The Durham man wants employers to know that he’s worth more.
“It’s just I’m living from paycheck-to-paycheck. You know, I have to manage or try to manage or attempt to manage,” the man explained. “Managing sometimes gets rough. It’s a tough road out here and that’s why I’m still out here fighting.”
With union rights, he feels thousands of workers, “We’ll be equal and we’ll be able to live. We’ll be able to survive.”
Cooks and cashiers from the local McDonald’s, Burger Kings and other restaurants joined employees from 300 other cities as part of the same movement.
Later in the afternoon, the Durham strikers moved to CCB plaza. Some dietary aides, nurse assistants, and other employees at hospitals also joined the protest.
Among the protesters was Pascha Moore, a mother of four who has 14 years in the restaurant and fast food industry.
“It’s very hard to provide, and as kids get older, they get more expensive and you just try to manage things,” Moore sighed. “You just try to be a mother.”
Union advocates say stories like Moore’s and Burnette are an example for why employees need to unionize negotiate their own contracts.
“Individually our voices aren’t always heard and with a union we can speak together, louder, and make important win,” explained Jess Issacharoff, who works with the Duke University Graduate Student Union.
Monday’s event comes a week after Duke University and Duke University Health System announced a raise in pay to $15 for 2,300 employees