by Jane Porter
The KFC on New Bern Avenue in downtown Raleigh has a sign in its window for a six-piece fried chicken deal for $9.99.
It's a luxury most of the restaurant's workers likely cannot afford, and the irony is not lost on the Rev. William Barber.
"It's a crime," he told a crowd of around 100 people, "that you can work for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and can't hardly afford the chicken that's there. It's a crime to work 40 hours and be paid like you're working part-time, and not be given health insurance or time off when you get sick."
Fast-food workers and their allies across the state and the country went on strike Thursday to demand better wages than the $7.25 an hour most of them are currently paid.
They want $15 dollars and the right to unionize in North Carolina and other places in the South, without fear of retaliation.
Some workers will settle for $10 an hour, said Melvin Wharton and Dansiray McVay, two employees from a Greensboro Taco Bell. They just want a wage where they don't have to have choose between paying their cell phone bill and buying their next meal.
Yesterday's demonstration began at the historic Martin Street Baptist Church, where Barber rallied workers from Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, and their supporters, before marching to the KFC franchise located on the busy Raleigh street leading out of downtown.
"The reality is," Barber told the crowd, "the fastest growing jobs in the U.S.A. are the lowest paid. Most new jobs are in fast food. Workers are paid between $10,000 and $18,000 a year. Fast-food workers are truly the working poor."
Wharton, who made $13 an hour before he was laid off more than a year ago, calls his wages "chump change."
"Who can survive on that?" he asked. "I've got real bills. I hope the nation and the government can see that we're tired. We want to be treated fairly and get fair wages, just like any other person in America."
Crowd members carried signs reading "Strike for 15" and chanted "We can't survive on $7.25."
Passing motorists, hopefully on their way home from jobs that pay them living wages, honked their horns and waved.