Durham City Workers Union Celebrates Victory of $6.5 Million in Bonuses Awarded to City Workers

Oct 6, 2023

At the Durham City Council Work Session on Thursday, October 5, a vote was taken to award $6.5 million in additional bonuses to the city workers. “We didn’t get what we asked for, but we got a victory,” was the common refrain amongst city workers after the meeting.

All workers earning under $42,800 per year will receive the full bonus demanded by the union of $5,000. Workers between $42,481 and $56, 650 will receive $3,750. All workers between $56,651 and $84,970 will be awarded $2,500. Those earning above $84,971 and below $106,210 will receive $2,000.Those over $106,211 will receive $500. All part time workers will receive $1,000. While it is not a perfect decision, we salute the city for awarding these significant bonuses in a timely manner. The important part about this decision, to chose Option 3, is that it will not create further divisions and antagonisms between workers.

Union members are hinging our hopes on the prospect proposed by Mayor Elaine O’Neal to find the additional $1.2 million to award everyone under $75,000 the full $5,000 in the near future.

“We came up with the $5,000 because it is reasonable given our circumstances. The truth of the matter is that there are a handful of guys in my department that are homeless, that are living in hotels with their wife and children. People think it is an honorable position to work for the city. But that is not the case,” stated George Bacote, Solid Waste operator and UE150 union member, during the public comment period.

This decision comes after workers in the Solid Waste department did not load their trucks from September 6 to September 11 in protest of low pay with a huge outpouring of community support. After trash, recycling and yard waste piled up for 6 days, workers agreed to return to work on September 12 in solidarity with the community.

“This is a huge victory for all city workers. $6.5 million in the pockets of the city workers is a major step towards economic justice that we all deserve,” stated John Burwell, solid waste operator and member of UE150 union. Burwell continued, “We are experiencing city workers that are homeless. City workers that live in hotels and in their cars. Some can’t even afford cars. Others of us cannot afford to live in the city that we serve.”

This money will go a long way to help city workers establish more stable housing in our community. UE150 looks forward to working with the Mayor, City Council and City Manager’s office during the current Compensation Market Study and next year’s budget to ensure that wages are adjusted upwards appropriately. UE150 will be proposing in next year’s budget that the minimum wage for city workers be raised up to $25 per hour, solid waste laborers raised to $28 per hour, and all heavy equipment operators or CDL holders be paid a minimum of $35 per hour. Every worker deserves a minimum of a $3 per hour wage increase. Additionally, we are proposing the creation of a $2 million fund to support city workers with down payment home ownership as well as rental assistance.

Montrell Perry, solid waste worker and UE150 union members, also spoke out at the meeting stating that “Durham is currently one the lowest paid municipalities in North Carolina, particularly for sanitation workers.” Perry cited figures that the starting wages for sanitation workers compared to other cities, including many smaller cities, is as follows:


  • Durham – $39, 141
  • Burlington – $40, 500
  • Greensboro – $43,000
  • Greenville – $41,000
  • Raleigh – $41,117
  • Rocky Mount – $40,516
  • Charlotte – $45,760