CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County School Board voted to approve bonuses for all staff members Tuesday night, hours after a strike by cafeteria workers.
Cafeteria worker absences affected 36 schools, and it's not over.
On Tuesday evening, the district warned parents of more challenges. It's encouraging students at 15 schools to take their own food Wednesday because the work stoppages may continue.
Hours after Wake parents and other district staff swooped in to ensure every child had a meal Tuesday, as dozens of district cafeteria workers called out in protest of low pay and poor work conditions --some of those same cafeteria staffers spoke out at the board meeting to tell district leaders why they're so fed up.
"I am here to say that we're tired. We're exhausted. And feel invisible," said Ana Stratis, cafeteria manager at Oberlin Magnet Middle School who described the longer hours in understaffed schools -- some days with no food deliveries; no utensils; no serving trays for the kids. All with no extra pay.
"I no longer want to survive. I want to live. I want a living wage," Stratis said.
The board also heard from its educators: Teachers who stood to advocate for themselves and support staff.
"We have never felt so stressed; so overwhelmed; so overworked; and so undervalued," said Stacy Eleczko.
The board voted unanimously in favor of $3,750 in bonus pay to all district staff divided into three paychecks through 2022. The board also boosted the daily pay for substitute teachers.
Critics say the gestures are nice but what is really needed is a boost in pay. They say the real problem lies on Jones Street.
Gov. Roy Cooper signaled Tuesday that he will sign the Republican-backed budget proposal that includes 5% pay increases for educators. The president of the state teachers association told ABC11 on Tuesday night that it is a far cry from enough.
"While we have some progress in this budget, we still have a ways to go before we are fully funding our public schools," said NCAE President Tamika Kelly. We know that the average 5% raise is not really average at all. Many of our educators will see little to no raise in their paychecks. And we still have our classified staff who need to be adequately paid for a living wage."
Many cafeteria workers and other school support staff are also members of NCAE. ABC11 asked the president about the work stoppages Tuesday. Kelly says NCAE is not coordinating with those workers. But, says their struggle is real. And the association supports them.