(WNCN) – Drive-thru customers waiting for their meal Wednesday were greeted by McDonald’s workers in Durham joining a nationwide daylong strike.

“The fact that people are standing here for $15 an hour should send a clear message not just to corporations, to people in general,” said Ana Ilarraza Blackburn with the Poor People’s Campaign.

While McDonald’s said it is raising its entry-level minimum wage to $11 an hour, it only counts for corporate-owned restaurants – not franchises.

“They did $5 billion last year during a pandemic and all of that money went to their shareholders and not one cent went to raising wages for us,” said McDonald’s employee Precious Cole.

Bank of America, Amazon, Chipotle and Under Armour have announced minimum wage increases without any federal or state legislation forcing them to do so.

“It’s certainly an indication of something that we knew for a long time. There are a lot of companies out there that had the money to pay people a decent wage and just weren’t doing it because they could get away with not doing it,” said economic analyst Patrick McHugh with the NC Justice Center.

But McHugh said by lawmakers not bringing wages up over time small and medium-sized businesses suffer the most.

Many of which barely managed to survive the pandemic and recession.

McHugh worries about a deeper divide.

“You hit a crisis and then suddenly it’s only the companies that have billions of dollars available to them that are able to raise wages enough to get folks to come to work for them,” he said.

McDonald’s employee Nah’shon Blount said a wage increase would mean he could hopefully one day go to college.

“We’re the ones who give you your profit so why are we still getting poverty wages, we deserve a $15 minimum wage,” he said.

But who makes that decision, legislators or businesses, is a long way from any conclusion.
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