Durham sanitation workers skip pickups for 2nd day, demand pay raise: 'Don't want to drag this out'

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, September 8, 2023
Durham sanitation workers attend city council work session
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Sanitation workers in Durham are demanding higher pay and haven't run their routes for 2 straight days.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Many sanitation workers didn't show up for work for the second day in a row.

They said they help keep the Bull City running and until a deal is reached, they won't be on the job.

At Thursday's city council work session, they showed up in full force.

"We're called essential workers. Treat us like essential workers," said sanitation worker Herman Moore.

You could hear the passion in each of their voices.

"We don't want to drag this out. We just want to be compensated. That's all," said worker Chris Copeland.

One by one they stepped up to the podium before the city council.

"We're from here and we can't live here as adults? I don't know how y'all can look at us and say you appreciate what we do," said worker Antonio Smith.

Even community members spoke on their behalf.

"It's a crying shame that you Black folks sitting up there not doing the right thing by our Black folks," said community member John Chavis.

The sanitation workers filled three rows inside the city council chamber staring into the eyes of Bull City leadership.

An emotional Mayor Elaine O'Neal spoke first and told the crowd that only three council members including herself supported pay raises for these workers in June.

"One of the reasons I'm not running anymore is because of this kind of stuff. I won't be silent any longer," she said.

Her response was met with a standing ovation, but Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middleton's words were met with anger.

"I am not going to vote to give you money with my left hand knowing next year we have to re-up and take more from you then. I'm not going to do it. Elect someone else," he said.

As frustrations mounted inside the chamber sanitation worker Herman Moore told me one thing was obvious about city council.

"They're at each other's throats about different things," he said.

ABC11 wanted to see how Durham sanitation workers got paid and how that stacks up to local cities.

In Durham, solid waste drivers earn between $45,493.00 - $70,012.00. Collectors range from $39,141.00 - $57,953.00.

In Raleigh, drivers salary range from $41,203 - $67, 137. Collectors range from $41,030 - $60,031.

Meantime, the mayor said she hopes to take a closer look at their salaries by September 21, the next work session. Workers told ABC11 they are standing together until a solution is reached.

"We will keep the faith and stand," said worker John Burwell.