Durham City Workers’ Union Demands $25/Hour

April 3, 2024

On Monday, March 18, the members of the Durham City Workers Union chapter of UE Local 150 rallied for $25 per hour and fair pay before the city's budget hearing, demanding that the city finally prioritize its lowest paid workers.

George Bacote, a sanitation worker and president of the Durham City Workers Union, said, “We are the workers on the lower end of the pay scale. We are the ones with our boots on the ground, that do the hard work everyday of keeping this city beautiful and clean. We want to get paid." In addition to the union members, dozens of other faith leaders and community members spoke in support of the union’s demands.

“You are giving police a 17 percent raise,” Bacote continued. “We are just as important to the safety and health of this city. We want to be reclassified as such. A $6.50 per hour raise is a small ask for this line of work. Day in and day out, in the dead cold, in the rain, in the scorching heat. Picking up the city's trash is hazardous to one's health.”

The union is also demanding an end to the unfair merit pay system, training pay, and no increases to health insurance costs.

Durham city workers increasingly are unable to afford to live in the city where they work. Robert Wilkerson, a Local 105 union member in the Public Works department, spoke at the hearing stating, “The 2024 HUD Fair market rent in Durham is $1,418 for a one-bedroom apartment. If 1,418.00 was 30 percent of my salary, as the ordinance mandates, then I would be making $27.26 an hour. But because of the flawed amendment calling for the use of four prior years of lower rates you have set the livable wage at $19.56 per hour, well below what it takes to be able to afford to live in Durham.”

To address the housing affordability crisis for city workers, the union is also proposing a $2 million down payment home ownership assistance grant program for city workers, similar to one won by the Charlotte City Workers Union/UE Local 150 in 2022.

Durham sanitation workers engaged in a six day “stand down” in September which won $6.5 million in bonuses for city workers. The City Council will vote on a final budget for 2024-25 in June.


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