Workers meeting to prepare for legislative visits
On April 26th, UFE and our Raising Wages North Carolina partners mobilized low-wage workers and allies to gather in Raleigh, NC for a Lobby Day and “Building Worker Power” Convening. The Raising Wages NC coalition, which UFE coordinates, is continuing to mobilize workers and advocate for the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.
Workers came to Raleigh to make the case for the NC Up Minimum Wages/No Subminimum or Exemptions Act, the latest version of the inclusive minimum wage bill the coalition has advanced for the past three legislative sessions. It would phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage over a few years, while phasing out the tipped minimum and eliminating exemptions for disabled or incarcerated workers.
At the event, Raising Wages NC members joined forces with others who were advancing bills to create paid sick days and an insurance program to support paid family leave. Workers held a press conference and visited with about 40 legislators.
Check out a short and inspiring video on YouTube by Iximche Media about the Lobby Day!
Kayan Cheung-Miaw (left), UFE’s Wages and Workers Rights Organizer, facilitates the gathering of workers who came to Raleigh to push for a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave
Workers assemble at the “Building Worker Power” Convening at the NC Justice Center. Note the earpieces worn to enable simultaneous interpretation, a core language justice practice for creating an inclusive multilingual conversation.
The Lobby Day and “Building Worker Power” Convening brought positive media attention to workers and their fight for fair pay and decent conditions. For example, local TV network affiliates shared testimony from workers who described the hardships they endured as a result of low pay and few protections. And their coverage emphasized that the proposed bills would improve the lives of workers without adding any new costs to taxpayers.
Even a subsequent “balanced” story featuring a business owner who predicted harm to employers if they could not pay the paltry current minimum of $7.25 ended with a quote from the same skeptic acknowledging that the rate is woefully inadequate to afford housing. A majority of North Carolinians have supported a raise to the minimum wage for many years. If the proposed bill is enacted, it is estimated that it would lift the wages of nearly half (47%) of workers in the state.
RWNC and UFE will continue to build workers' capacity to advocate for themselves and their communities, and to continue to build a stronger labor movement in NC. Here are some more photos that capture the energy of the day by Ivy Nicole-Jonet of North Carolina Justice Center.
Members of the RWNC coalition preparing to meet with legislators.
Members of the RWNC coalition meeting with legislators and their staff.
ABC news interview with worker, Blanca.
Press conference group photo