DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham City Council members have approved bonuses for city workers.
The vote comes after many sanitation workers voiced concerns to city council members and even went on strike. For a series of days, some sanitation workers skipped trash pick-ups in early September.
On Thursday, workers continued to share those concerns during a city council work session where council members suspended the rules to vote on three different bonus proposals based on pay.
After a lengthy discussion and comments from workers and the public, council members chose the option that would come with the highest cost for the city with bonuses between $500 and $5,000. Employees earning less than $42,480 will receive a $5,000 bonus and those who earn more would receive slightly less. City council members said the option not only spread out bonuses amongst all groups of pay but also included larger bonuses for part-time employees, as well.
Before the Thursday meeting, city council members had determined a standard for all three bonus options that were on the table. Each option would include all employees— bonuses would also be determined by area median income. In addition, the structure of the proposals ensured lower-paid employees would receive higher bonuses and the total cost across all funds would not exceed $6.5M.
The three options on the table came after the response to a proposal last month from Durham City Manager Wanda Page who recommended raises to workers ranging from $2,000-$3,000 for full-time staff. Sanitation workers said then that it wasn’t enough.
During the meeting, George Bacote joined several other sanitation workers and city employees who shared why larger bonuses were vital for employees. Bacote said, “We feel that it’s reasonable to get us out of our circumstances, our financial bonds… The truth of the matter and what you guys don’t know, there’s a handful of workers at my department that are homeless.”
Bacote went on to explain that some sanitation workers and their families are currently living in hotels.
Bacote’s remarks brought a response from several city council members including Council Member Monique Holsey-Hyman. Not only did Holsey-Hyman question the wide gap when it comes to the city workers’ pay range, but she also said, “Most of them are what, older men of color, right? That’s just very disheartening to me.”
City Council Member Jillian Johnson also spoke and said the minimum wage for city workers is currently $18. She noted that the bonuses would be taxed and hoped to limit confusion after several teachers also recently received bonuses and were surprised to see their paychecks.
Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal also shared her support for city workers and said, “I vote for today but I will not give up on your ask.” O’Neal said she is committed to keep pushing the conversation.
The council said bonuses would be included in paychecks as early as November and noted that council members would be excluded from the given bonuses.
Following the meeting, several sanitation workers gathered with members of the Durham City Workers Union and continued to chant for fair wages. Workers said Thursday’s vote is a victory for the group, but the fight is not over.