DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – For the second day in a row, Durham sanitation workers stood down, choosing not to go out on their trash pickup routes Thursday.

Trash cans line the streets of downtown Durham, waiting to be picked up by the city’s sanitation employees. 

But it might be a while before Chris Benjamin and his team get back to work.

“It’s not that we don’t to work,” Benjamin said. “We love our city. We love our community. We want to work. But there’s special requests and demands that haven’t been met.”

Durham sanitation and solid waste employees didn’t work in an attempt to secure bonuses and additional pay from the city.

The solid waste management team members are asking for an immediate $5,000 bonus, pay for all work outside of their job titles and for the hiring of all temporary workers as permanent.

Dozens attended the City Council work session, where some council members debated giving them that bonus.

“I am not going to vote with my left hand to give you money, knowing that the next year we have to re-up and then take more from you next year to keep that going,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton said.

“One of the reasons I’m not running anymore is because of this kind of stuff, and I’m not going to be silent any longer,” Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal said.

But the city and its workers weren’t able to strike a deal. The plan is to discuss the issue at the next work session on Sept. 21.

“[They] basically blow it off once again,” solid waste worker Antonio Smith said. “They gave us a date. But if they want to wait, we can wait.”

City Manager Wanda Page also visited the employees on Wednesday.

“Until we can come to some type of agreement and negotiate, this is why we’re here,” Benjamin said during that meeting. “It’s very important. If you’re born and raised in Durham, you can’t afford Durham… You have to have two jobs just to afford Durham.”

A city spokesperson told CBS 17 “we still are asking residents to leave their cart at the curb until it is collected.”

Until a deal is reached, many sanitation workers say they’re standing their ground. And the trash could pile up.



“We’re going to stay in this until we get some results,” Benjamin said.

According to the Local 150 union, wages have gone up by 15% since 2019, but inflation and cost of living have increased by nearly 23%.

Earlier in the summer, the city approved a new budget that includes up to an 8% pay bump for general employees.