Hundreds of McDonald's workers are protesting in 10 cities on Tuesday following multiple allegations by female employees of pervasive and unpunished sexual harassment at the hands of male co-workers.
Workers in Chicago, Durham, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and St Louis are all going on strike to highlight the problem which they claim is an epidemic, while several women have shared #MeToo moments with various news outlets.
Last summer Tanya Harrell was working in McDonald’s in Gretna, Louisiana, when she says a co-worker started making unwanted sexual advances.
A colleague she occasionally gave lifts to started touching her inappropriately at work, grabbing her breasts and backside and asking her to touch his penis. “I felt totally exposed, as if I did not have a skin or shell. I felt like I was outside my own body, watching what was happening,” she said in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). -The Guardian
And via The Intercept:
WHEN KIMBERLY LAWSON was first sexually harassed while working at McDonald’s in Kansas City, she did exactly what she was supposed to do. A co-worker, she said, had hit on her “constantly,” made lewd comments, and touched her inappropriately. “I filed a complaint, but nothing was done,” said the 25-year-old single mother of one. “He kept working on the same shifts as me.” When Lawson’s shift manager also began tormenting her with verbal sexual remarks, she didn’t even bother filing a complaint. -The Intercept
Harrell, featured in the Guardian's reporting, is one of ten people who filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, detailing widespread sexual harassment. Their efforts are being backed by the Fight for $15 group and the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, founded earlier this year to provide legal assistance to women who can't afford an attorney.
Adrianna Alvarez, a nine-year employee of a McDonald’s in Chicago, says the problem is "nationwide, worldwide."
"People are scared. They worry that if they complain it will affect their legal status, they could get fired or there could be retaliation," she said. "Women depend on these jobs."
Annelise Orleck, professor of history at Dartmouth College and author of We Are All Fast-Food Workers, a history of the new labour movement growing among low-wage workers, said abuse of this kind in the fast-food industry was “endemic”.
“There is a big movement of working-class women brewing. They are banking that in the age of #MeToo customers will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”
She pointed to victories by hotel workers in Chicago, where an ordinance now requires hotels to provide panic buttons to all workers who clean, restock, or take inventory alone in guest rooms and rest rooms. A similar ordinance is being discussed in California. Orleck said 66% of hotel workers say they have experienced sexual harassment; in fast food the figure is around 40%. -The Guardian
McDonald's responded to the strike in a statement, saying "There is no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind at McDonald’s. Since our founding, we’ve been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone. We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment."
The company has engaged third-party anti-sexual violence experts Rainn, and Seyfarth Shaw at Work - an employment law training firm, in order to "evolve our policies, procedures and training. We will continue – as we always have – to look at ways to do even more to ensure that McDonald’s values are reflected in every restaurant, every day."