DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — In an announcement Monday, sanitation workers in Durham said they will return to work on Tuesday to help clean up the city.

A spokesperson for the group on strike Chris Benjamin said the choice comes as a gesture for the people of Durham being impacted by the strike which started last week on Wednesday.

“It’s for the citizens. We’re doing this primarily for the citizens. We decided as a collective group to come out and decide that we can’t let this stuff sit out here that long,” said Antonio Smith, a sanitation worker.

The group said Monday that the city’s Solid Waste Management Department threatened to stop paying them while the strike continued on.

The strike had come with a demand for a $5,000 bonus, among other requirements. 

“Even though we still in the fight, we have to give some kind of leeway, and our leeway is to give these people what they need, and they deserve to have their trash picked up,” Smith said.

Crowds of people rallied in support of the sanitation workers’ efforts Monday. Smith says he and his colleagues were blown away by the community’s support.

“For us, it’s nothing new to see them out because we see them every day. But to see them out here right now, we appreciate it just that much more,” Smith said.

(Ben Bokun/CBS 17)

Several sanitation employees have told CBS 17 they make between $19 to $25 an hour.

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



“It hurts us that we have to do this, just so that we can get better pay just so most of us can live in the inner-city,” solid waste worker Devin Scott said. “Because we’re living out in Mebane and all this stuff around us instead of being able to live in the city.”

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

City council members debated giving the sanitation workers a bonus on Thursday but did not come to a decision.