Move to boost pay to a $15-an-hour for full-time city workers is part of growing trend in North Carolina
Workers and advocates celebrated this week as Winston-Salem City Council members voted unanimously to approve a minimum wage of $15 an hour or more for city workers by 2021. The move shows growing momentum in North Carolina, following similar victories in Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham and Wake County.
The measure was approved as part of the city’s personnel resolution at its June 18 meeting. It came after a long-running campaign for a higher “family wage” for city workers, led by a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations together with city workers. With the federal and state minimum wages stagnant for years, advocates have been pushing for a “family wage,” which would allow families to pay for the basic necessities like housing, food, transportation and child care.
— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) June 20, 2018
The city’s own research has been clear on the matter. The Winston-Salem Poverty Thought Force delivered its final report to Mayor Allen Joines and the City Council over a year ago. The report detailed numerous challenges and disparities, stating: “Winston-Salem and Forsyth County exhibit disproportionately high levels of poverty and social dysfunction, measured in multiple ways.”
Armed with data, the coalition of activists led by Working America joined with city workers to marshal public support for improving wages. The group held a major rally on April 4 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, where he was visiting to stand with striking municipal workers. Following the vote, all city workers will earn a minimum wage of at least $15 from 2021 onward.
Monticello Mitchell, a Winston-Salem city worker said: “City workers who work outside in inclement weather — hot, cold or rain — do so because we want to keep the city functioning. We welcome a show of appreciation with a $15 minimum wage for our service.”
Catherine Walton-Ward, North Carolina Director of Working America, said: “Working America members have been fighting for this big step forward for Winston-Salem. What we’ve heard from city workers is that they love living and working here; they’re loyal to their jobs, but they struggle to take care of their families. This vote builds on the momentum of other southern cities and moves us closer to creating a family wage that will strengthen our community and give businesses an incentive to follow suit.”
Craig Schaub of the Parkway United Church of Christ said: “I'm dedicated to our city raising wages to at least $15 per hour so that people no longer need to work multiple jobs. All of us deserve a day of rest, time with our families and time to participate in the community. A family wage strengthens our entire community.”
Around 540 people who work for the City of Winston-Salem make less than $15 an hour.
Working America led a similar coalition of faith, labor and community organizations to win a similar increase for workers in Greensboro in August 2015.
Members of the coalition for family wages include: First Baptist Church Winston-Salem (Highland Ave), Forsyth County Association of Educators (FCAE), Goler Memorial AME Zion Church, Institute for Dismantling Racism, Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, North Carolina AFL-CIO, NC Alliance for Retired Americans, North Carolina Council of Churches, NC Justice Center, Parkway United Church of Christ, Progress NC, Triad Central Labor Council, UE Local 150 Public Service Workers Union, Winston-Salem NAACP, Winston-Salem Urban League and Working America.
Since 2003, Working America has mobilized working people who don’t have the benefit of a union at work to fight for good jobs and a fair economy. As the 3-million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, we unite working people in urban and suburban communities around a shared economic agenda. For more information, visit www.WorkingAmerica.org.