About 30 low-wage workers staged a protest Thursday outside Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The rally, known as Raise up for 15, faces steep odds in Charlotte and in North Carolina. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has not considered hiking the minimum wage, and state law forbids the city of Charlotte and other municipalities from enacting their own minimum wage hikes that would impact private companies.
But the protest is designed in part to encourage businesses to raise their pay, as well as the city and other governments to follow suit for their own employees.
Naquasia LeGrand, who works at a McDonald’s in Montgomery County, said she struggles to care for her 9-month-old daughter on $7.25 an hour.
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“It’s very hard, especially when I get only 33 to 38 hours a week,” she said. “My bills are $1,020 a month, with $500 for rent.”
She said she sometimes makes $800 a month.
LeGrand, who is originally from Brooklyn. N.Y., participated in one of the first fast-food strikes there earlier this decade.
At the rally, LeGrand and others chanted, “We work, we sweat...for $15 on our check.”
Nationwide, the movement has focused on fast-food workers. But Thursday’s rally was meant to raise the pay for everyone, especially fast-food, home-care and child-care workers.
The city of Charlotte recently increased the lowest salary of its full-time workers to $27,000, which is about $13 an hour. That pay raise impacted 88 employees, most of whom work in Solid Waste Services.
City Manager Ron Carlee has said it’s too early to say whether the city can attempt another pay raise for the 282 full-time employees who earn less than $15 an hour. That would cost the city $907,000 a year.
The city’s mayoral candidates have been reluctant to support $15 an hour.
Republicans Scott Stone and Edwin Peacock are against setting the higher wage, but said the city must ensure it’s competitive with the private sector and other governments. Democrats Michael Barnes and David Howard have taken a similar position.
Mayor Dan Clodfelter, a Democrat, said he doesn’t think any city employee should qualify for Medicaid, though he hasn’t committed to $15 an hour.
Democrat Jennifer Roberts supports $15 an hour, saying the city should “lead by example.”
Greensboro recently adopted a new minimum wage of $12 an hour for full-time employees, and plans to increase it to $15 an hour by 2020.