Activists rallied for a higher minimum wage during Saturday’s HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition rally, boasting signs calling for change.
Protestors in attendance called for the N.C. General Assembly to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 – the requirement set by the federal government – to $15 per hour.
An increase in wages was featured as a prominent piece of the HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition’s 14 Point People’s Agenda for North Carolina. Several speeches preceding the rally referenced this goal for a livable wage and support for low income people.
The agenda calls for the state to adjust the minimum wage in relation to inflation rates and to expand social welfare programs like food stamps for lower-income citizens. It also emphasized the need for employers to offer basic workplace benefits like paid sick days.
Brianna Whitfield, a member of the NAACP’s chapter at Duke University, said the Fight for $15 movement is ultimately advocating for a living wage for all North Carolinians.
“Minimum wage is such an important issue because $7.25 just doesn’t make sense,” Whitfield said. “You can’t raise a family, you can’t move forward and you can’t take steps to better your life if you have to work two or three jobs to survive.”
An attendee of protests since the Vietnam War, Asheville resident Ted Spirakis, who is also a member of the Yancey-Mitchell chapter of the NAACP, said his presence represents more than his own opinions.
“I am here fighting for all the people that don’t have a voice or can’t be here,” he said.
Mary Dooley, a member of Democratic Socialists and Triangle Women for Bernie, said the issue of minimum wage is personal for her because many of her family members are currently working for minimum wage.
“I think that this is at the heart of why many people are having a terrible time in the United States today,” Dooley said. “This affects blacks; it affects women; it affects Latinos. It’s a wide, cross-demographic issue.”
And Dena Papazoglou, a Chapel Hill resident, said she attended the rally because she is concerned about the state moving in the wrong direction on a number of issues.
“I have kids, and I’m concerned about the future,” she said. “(The state legislature) is dismantling the protections that make our state a great place to live.”