Hundreds of McDonalds workers, in 10 cities across the U.S., banded together on Tuesday to protest workplace sexual harassment.
In St. Louis, they chanted, “Hold your burgers, hold your fries. Keep your hands off my thighs.” In Chicago, protesters covered their mouth with blue duct tape that said “MeToo.” In Los Angeles, protesters wore red and held banners that read “#MeToo McDoanld’s” and “No more sexual harassment McDonald’s” in Spanish. In Kansas City, the first letter of #MeToo was written in the style of the company’s golden arches.
The goal of the actions, organized by Fight for $15 (affiliated with the Service Employees International Union), was to pressure McDonald’s to bring in stronger policies to protect workers from sexual harassment at its more than 14,000 stores in the U.S.
A 2016 survey conducted by Hart Research and commissioned by Futures Without Violence, the Ms. Foundation and the National Partnership for Women and Families in conjunction with Fight for 15, showed that 40 percent of women who work in fast food say they’ve experienced some kind of unwanted sexual behavior at work. At the Chicago protest, 59-year-old Brenda Harris, who has worked at McDonald’s since 1995, told the New York Times she had been groped and harassed too many times to count.
McDonald’s issued a statement in response, saying: “We have strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment. To ensure we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response.”
Those experts include Rainn, the nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, according to the statement. A Rainn spokeswoman said the group had not yet started working with the company.
But Mary Joyce Carlson, a lawyer for workers connected to Fight for $15, told the Times she believed the training was offered only to supervisors, failing to empower their subordinates. “When we first met some of these [hourly] workers,” she said, “they didn’t even know that the conduct that they were tolerating was unlawful, and they had no idea, after they had unsuccessfully approached managers, that there was anything they could do about it.”
In May, Fight for $15 assisted 10 McDonald’s employees to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), bringing forward allegations that male supervisors had made unwelcome advances against them and had retaliated against those who complained.
McDonald’s also came under fire earlier this year when a campaign to mark International Women’s Day — flipping its iconic golden arches, to resemble a W, across all their digital channels, and featuring special packaging, uniforms and bag stuffers — went awry. The gimmick was swiftly derided by critics, who accused the company of failing to pay its female workers fair wages, offer family leave, respect union rights, or “protect poverty wage working women from sexual harassment.”
Hourly workers in eight states filed sexual harassment complaints against the chain with the EEOC in 2016, including an allegation by one woman that her manager sent an SMS offering $1,000 for oral sex. Workers also made complaints of having their breasts and backsides grabbed, as well as hearing obscene comments about their appearance or sexual orientation.
Read the full story at The New York Times.