ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - City services in Elizabeth City came to a halt Tuesday morning after employees went on a strike.
“Me and my co-workers are tired of eating crumbs that fall off the table. We want to eat like city council eats," said Tommy Hopson, a city worker in Elizabeth City.
Hopson says he’s going on strike because he wants a pay raise for the job where he’s been for 18 years.
“I’m sure the citizens [are going to hear] what we talking about when they can’t get their trash picked up or they can’t get their lights turned on. I’m sure the citizens will hear us,” Hopson said.
He says he has some co-workers who can’t afford housing due to the low pay.
Troy Searcy works full time for the Elizabeth City Public Works Department and said in Monday’s city council meeting that he’s been living out of his van because he can’t afford to pay for housing with his salary.
“This is with a salary as a full-time worker for Elizabeth City. I was unable to afford - and still unable to afford - the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment. We need to make something happen together so that I don’t have to live out of the back of a van,” Searcy said.
During city council's meeting Monday night, council members discussed city workers getting a pay raise.
“Our employees deserve a much, well-deserved raise. I made the motion last night to propose a 10% property tax increase so that we would be able to fund the raise for all of our employees. We have an emergency meeting scheduled for tomorrow, which is our last chance to make it right before July 1 before we have to turn our budget in,” Councilman Gabriel Adkins said.
Councilman Adkins and Councilman Kem Spence were the two council members who voted for that tax increase. Adkins says there were not enough votes to pass the tax increase.
“No one likes to hear about tax increases, but when you get to a situation like this when our employees are out on the line and it’s a chance of them quitting and not showing up and coming to work, we got to do what we got to do.”
Adkins says if the strike continues, it will impact the entire city.
“Every day in Elizabeth City is trash day. They didn’t pick up any trash today; they didn’t do any road repairs.”
Adkins says the city paid $35,000 to have a pay study done.
“The pay study was done, and they came back and reported to us that just about all of our city workers were under the minimum salary," he said.
The pay study suggested a 4% increase for city workers.
City council will have a budget meeting Wednesday night.