Durham city workers rally for fair wages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day: 'Struggle is still here'

Akilah Davis Image
Monday, January 15, 2024
Durham city workers rally for fair wages on MLK Day
Hundreds of Durham city workers and supporters stood in CCB Plaza honoring and building on the legacy Dr. King left, by calling for increased wages.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's been nearly 60 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while supporting sanitation workers on strike in Memphis. Yet, city workers in Durham have said they are still fighting the same fight.

Public works maintenance technician Vincent Daniels works two jobs and almost 80 hours a week to feed his family. Daniels is planning his wedding but told ABC11 a honeymoon is unlikely because he doesn't make enough.

"I have to drive Uber as soon as I get off work because I can't afford the bills I have," said Daniels. "If they raise wages they can get employees. We have half the workforce they did two years ago because everyone is leaving because the money is not there."

It's a battle King fought nearly 60 years ago. He would have been 95 years old today. In March of 1968, Dr. King led a march in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, alongside sanitation workers who were on strike seeking higher wages. He was assassinated just days later.

Paula Cook is a supporter of this cause.

"Especially on MLK Day. This is what he'd be doing today. It's the least I can do to come out and support the people," said Cook.

SEE ALSO | Video from 1966 found of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at NC State: 19 seconds

A 19-second clip of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech inside Reynolds Coliseum in 1966 was recently found in a Raleigh homeowner's basement.

Hundreds of Durham city workers and supporters stood in CCB Plaza honoring and building on the legacy Dr. King left. While city workers from different departments attended, sanitation workers have been vocal from the start.

In September, sanitation workers walked off the job for days. They are now asking for $25 an hour.

"What you think these workers deserve says a lot about you. It doesn't reflect the value of their work or their value as people. They are just as important as me and you," said Cook.

SEE ALSO | Durham sanitation workers agree to return to work, for now, because of 'commitment to community'

The men and women who are asking for a pay raise said they are returning on Tuesday because they have a commitment to keep the community clean.

Council members DeDreana Freeman and Nate Baker were among the crowd Monday at CCB Plaza.

One woman had words for city council members as they began planning for next year's budget.

"Figure out how to make it work for city workers," she said. "If you're going to err, err on the side of compassion."

LIST: MLK Day events across central North Carolina