We’re Raising Wages for Everyone!
Fighting for $15 at the General Assembly
On March 19th, 2019, North Carolina lawmakers joined Raising Wages NC (RWNC) — a growing coalition of worker groups, advocates, business owners, and faith leaders — at a legislative press conference to announce the introduction of H.B. 366. This inclusive legislation raises the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024, indexes it to the cost of living, ends the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities, phases it out for tipped workers, and repeals exemptions for agricultural and domestic workers.
Reps. Susan Fisher, Jean Farmer-Butterfield, MaryAnn Black, and Pricey Harrison are primary sponsors of H.B. 366. In addition to lawmakers, speakers at the press conference included Rev. Jennifer Copeland, NC Council of Churches; Wendy’s worker Earl Bradley and Waffle House waitress Eshawney Gaston, Raise Up for $15 and a Union; direct care worker Priscilla Smith, National Domestic Workers Alliance We Dream in Black NC Chapter; TS Designs president Eric Henry, NC Business Council; and Ana Pardo, NC Justice Center Workers’ Rights Project.
THE FIGHT for living wages arrives at THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
It was the culmination of months of planning, the result of deep collaboration between the two dozen members of the Raising Wages NC campaign coalition. We showed up early to the NC General Assembly. Many familiar faces filtered in, some of whom had attended our Raising Wages NC Lobby Day in 2018, and our Week of Action in 2017.
Getting things ready…
As members of the coalition gathered, things came together quickly. An alert went out to our email list (sign up here), and people tuned in to the press conference livestream. We brought posters inscribed with testimonials, and a rather large stack of petitions that we delivered to legislators.
Morning Press Conference
The press conference began at 9:30 AM and ended at 10:00 AM. Workers, business owners, faith leaders, policy experts, and others spoke on the need to raise wages.
“I’m a shift manager. Though I’ve worked at the same store for years, I don’t make much. I don’t get vacation or sick leave. I can’t afford healthcare. At $9.25/hr, I’m lucky if I have $50 left over for rent, food, and transportation. I know that it’s with all our voices together that we make a difference. I know that’s why I joined Raise Up.”
-Wendy’s worker Earl Bradley, @RaiseUpfor15 (Raise Up for $15 / Fight for $15)
“I'm work for tips at Waffle House but have been homeless since August because the pay is not enough to live on. I want to be able to have my own space, have a car so I can get more done. I want to be able to do it myself, and stand on my own two feet. We should all be able to do that. Too many hard working people are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s why I’m asking you stand with us, and support the $15 minimum wage bill, so that my hard work means something, and I have a chance to live with dignity.”
-Tipped Waffle House worker Eshawney Gaston, @RaiseUpfor15 (Raise Up for $15 / Fight for $15)
“In answer to the question of why we don’t let the market alone handle this: We’ve already tried that… the average American households buying power has almost been cut in half since the 1970s. The minimum wage was intended, when it was created decades ago, to provide what people needed at the most basic level — housing, transportation, food. It was NOT to be a survival wage, but to be a wage where people could prosper when working full time.”
-Workers Rights expert Ana Pardo, @NCWorkers (NC Justice Center’s NC Worker’s Rights Project)
“This bill includes those previously excluded from minimum wage protection. Farmworkers, like care workers, provide a vital service for us all.”
-Home Healthcare worker Priscilla Smith, @domesticworkers (National Domestic Workers Alliance)
Meetings with Legislators
(Bringing the Message Home for NC Lawmakers)
After the press conference concluded, we presented our stack of petitions supporting a $15 minimum wage to legislators. We spread out through the General Assembly, stopping by the offices of various key lawmakers for brief discussions. Many weren’t there, so we spoke to their secretaries and other staffers. Workers and advocates testified on the importance of raising wages for all NC. Afterwards, we gathered outside for a formal debrief with MaryBe McMillan, president of the NC AFL-CIO. The feeling of solidarity in that moment, following a momentous bill launch and successful visits with lawmakers, was immense.
Fortunately, even if you missed the event, you can find the full livestream on the Raising Wages NC Facebook page. We've also embedded the video below: