Fight to raise the minimum wage fires up in Durham

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Protesters were fired up in downtown Durham Thursday in the fight to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour, but not everyone agrees.

Workers across different service industries rallied in front of the McDonald's on Morgan Street to catch the attention of North Carolina lawmakers and big business, in an effort to raise the wage.

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A Durham Bojangles employee at the rally told ABC11 that he lives paycheck to paycheck.

"We can't live off of $7.25. It's impossible," Abdul-Jalil Rasheed-Burnett said. "I mean we do a lot as fast food workers, health care workers, any type of worker. You know we just can't live off that."

Durham County Republican Party Chairman Immanuel Jarvis said he sympathizes with service workers, but says he's concerned that raising the minimum wage would mean a decrease in the amount of available jobs.

"I was in the food industry as well. My dad has owned restaurants and I've worked in the back," Jarvis said. "It's a hard job. You know it's one of those jobs that you don't get a lot of thanks."

He said raising the minimum wage is a short-term fix to a long-term problem and that minimum wage jobs should serve as a stepping stone.

"We have to remember that the minimum wage is not supposed to be where someone stays. It's supposed to be the first step of employment," Jarvis said.

Vimala Rajendran, co-owner of Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill, disagrees.

"It is a job. It is not just a stepping stone. People are considering this work as their career," Rajendran said.

She joined the local "Fight for $15" in Durham Thursday and said she pays her workers a living wage and still manages to run a profitable business.

"We are now into our sixth year and we love what we do," Rajendran said. "And our guests enjoy eating at our restaurant because the food tastes of justice."

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