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Essential NC workers take issue with pay and work conditions
Demonstrations and demands for better treatment
Published Monday, July 20, 2020 9:25 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Essential workers across North Carolina are participating in today's Strike for Black Lives to demand corporations and government do more to confront systemic racism in society and the workplace.

North Carolina's essential workers are demanding justice on the job.

Frontline workers of color across the state are joining counterparts across the country today in a Strike for Black Lives to demand corporations and government take action to confront systemic racism in society and the workplace.

In Durham, NC Raise Up/Fight for $15 and a Union brought essential workers and community together for a day of action that included a socially distanced strike line around a McDonald’s restaurant for a rally.

“McDonald’s publicly claims to care about Black lives, but McDonald’s pays us poverty wages and has failed to give us proper PPE during this pandemic,” said Rita Blalock, a Raleigh McDonald’s worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union. “Thousands of Black and brown workers put on a McDonald’s uniform every day, and we matter. We’re going to keep striking and organizing until McDonald’s meets our demands and proves that they actually value our lives.”

Although North Carolina has a limited reopening due to COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers – many of them people of color – have to decide between reporting for duty at essential businesses or losing their jobs during a recession.

“Like many healthcare workers I am risking my life to care for patients, yet I do not receive a living wage, hazard pay or even paid sick days. As a Black woman, the systemic injustices I face do not end with my job,” said Faith Alexander, a nursing assistant in Fayetteville. “I’m part of the Strike for Black Lives because racial justice and economic justice go hand in hand. We’re coming together across the country to confront racism and build new systems that allow all our communities to thrive.”

Frontline workers from across the University of North Carolina system staged a Day of Action on July 17 to protest UNC’s policy toward workers during the pandemic and the system’s reopening plans.

At the Chapel Hill campus, workers organized a march – with masks and social distancing – to deliver a petition of demands, including signatures from campus and graduate workers to university administrators. Students return to school Aug. 10.

Workers from seven UNC schools testified at a forum webinar about work conditions and their fears for students returning to campus. Several lawmakers participated in the town hall, including Reps. John Autry and Christy Clark from Mecklenburg County.

The workers contend UNC’s policy puts them at risk during a pandemic that disproportionately impacts their health. Some departments on the Chapel Hill campus, they say, give employees as few as two masks a week, and workers report limited access to personal protection equipment such as face shields and gowns. Several workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and health officials reported a coronavirus cluster within the school’s athletics department.

“The people in the suits aren't communicating with us,” said Larry Tucker, a maintenance worker at NC Central University. “Every healthy relationship I’ve been in has been based on open communication, and every toxic relationship I’ve been in has had poor communication. I take it personally that we don’t have any bilingual or Spanish-speaking supervisors who can communicate with our Latinx workers. Someone comes up with a rule or a policy and we just have to deal with it, even if they don’t understand it. I'm just trying to figure out why there isn't any transparency. We need seats at the table to voice our concerns as working people.”

Rex Kearney, a housekeeper at UNC Charlotte and steward of UE150, took issue with the school creating new shift times without consulting with workers.

“The university isn't listening to the concerns of essential workers,” he said. “We want a seat at the table. Now they are trying to force us to start shifts at 3 a.m., which is impossible for our families. Front line workers, students, facility and all of us have serious health and safety concerns. The administration is making changes even before the students get here, and we don’t have all the information about what’s happening. They sent out all kinds of emails and it’s all a mess.”


I am also a Health care worker. I went in to work every week during this pandemic to care for 6 ladies at an in- home care facility. And I'm told I don't qualify for nothing. If this is true, then our government is really screwed up. Our president should make sure that essential workers like my self should get something for our heroism in still working.
Posted on August 25, 2020

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