Greensboro city workers unionize for better pay

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The newly-formed Greensboro Public Service Workers Union went before the city council Tuesday night asking for higher pay and better working conditions.

"We've always come together collectively; we've spoken with people of high authority but they've never heard us. We're here to speak with our leaders to see if we can't get something resolved," said Charles French, a Greensboro City Sanitation worker.

French is the union president and has been working on recruiting people for the last several months.

He and a few dozen other city workers like librarians and street workers protested outside the Melvin Municipal Building.

"I'm serious about my work, I'm professional about what I do and I get the job done," said Bryce Carter, a streets supervisor.

Carter says the crews are understaffed and underpaid. He told council he's lost employees to jobs just because of the salary. Carter is in charge of fixing potholes around town.

"We are losing the battle here because there's so many potholes and a few of us," Carter said.

City employees asked council to give them better pay, better equipment, hire more workers and give some workers -- like those in sanitation -- a lunch break.

Council members were sympathetic to the demands and said they appreciated the union members coming forward.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she's not happy that Greensboro city workers are some of the lowest paid in the state. "We are the third-largest city and if we want to attract the best employees we have to pay accordingly," she said.

French and other union leaders have already met with City Manager Jim Westmoreland about some of their concerns. French said the conversation went well and he believes it will be the start of a good relationship.

Greensboro City Council passed a pay raise in August 2015 for all employees excluding those at the Greensboro Coliseum. The council has also made it a goal to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.