More than 20 residents rallied around the Chapel Hill Town Hall Monday evening to protest the recent termination of two solid waste workers.
Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark were fired from sanitation jobs Oct. 29 and filed their grievances with the town Friday afternoon. Town officials declined to comment on the issue, citing personnel privacy.
“Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you give up your right to think,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The NAACP has dubbed Bigelow and Clark the “Sanitation Two,” and said they hope to have the workers rehired by Thanksgiving.
Barber said the town hired an investigator who worked for an anti-union consulting group to look into Bigelow and Clark’s involvement with the local N.C. Public Service Workers Union, known as UE 150.
Junior Laurel Ashton said she attended the protest to show her support for the workers.
“It’s really important for students and community members to care about what they’re doing right now, which is union busting,” she said.
After the protest ended, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed plans for redeveloping University Square, which include space for cultural activities and a green space in the interior of the complex that significantly increases in the area’s tree canopy.
John McColl, executive vice president of development for Cousins Properties, said a key theme of the project is sustainability.
The first buildings will go up four years from the start of demolition, the date of which hasn’t been announced.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward said he wondered if grass could grow in the courtyard-like space, but council member Sally Greene said that may make people think they can’t visit that area.
“It’s very possible that people will walk by and think they aren’t supposed to go back there,” she said.
McColl said these concerns could be handled.
“We have done it before, and we feel confident we can do it with the right kind of programming and management,” he said.
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