Encouraged by the # MeToo movement, McDonald's employees voted to take a one-day strike next week in restaurants in 10 cities, hoping that management is pressured to take more powerful steps against sexual harassment at work.
The organizers say it is the first multistate attack in the US that is specifically aimed at sexual harassment.
Outreach plans – starting at noon on September 18 – have been approved by & # 39; womens' committees & # 39 ;, formed by employees at dozens of McDonald's restaurants in the United States. Lead organizers include several women who filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Commission in May for alleged intimidation at some McDonald's franchise restaurants.
The strike comes because trade unions supported McDonalds on various fronts for better working conditions, including a wage of $ 15 per hour – at a hamburger chain employing tens of thousands of people across the country, many of whom are at low wages .
The organizers said the strike would target several restaurants – but not all local McDonalds – in each of the 10 cities: Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis.
They said they could not predict exactly how many workers would join the strike, but noted that hundreds of employees had taken part in the committee meetings where the strike was planned.
McDonald & # 39; s defended his attempts at intimidation in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"We have policies, procedures and training specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment in our company and in restaurants owned by the company, and we are confident that our franchisees share this commitment," the company said.
The company also unveiled a new initiative that will involve external experts in the company to help "evolve" those policies and procedures. Some of the experts would come from Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a training institute for labor law, and RAINN, an organization against sexual violence.
Labor lawyer Mary Joyce Carlson, who has worked with women who have filed the EEOC complaints, says the company must support such gestures with stricter enforcement.
"We do not see any evidence that a change has taken place," she said. "The policy that they have is not effective."
Organizers of the planned outage say strikers demand that the company improves the procedures for receiving and responding to complaints about harassment and requires anti-intimidation training for managers and employees. Another requirement is the establishment of a national sexual harassment committee consisting of employees, representatives of corporate and franchise stores and leaders of national women's groups.
Carlson is a lawyer for Fight for $ 15, a national movement that wants to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 per hour. She said that McDonald's successfully resists attempts to unite its employees, and suggested that employees' anger with regard to sexual harassment could feed wider efforts to obtain better working conditions.
Among the strike organizers is Tanya Harrell (22) from New Orleans, who lodged a complaint with the EEOC in May, claiming that her two managers at a local McDonald's teased her but did not take any action after she told them of persistent verbal and physical intimidation by a colleague. Harrell, who earns $ 8.15 per hour, said she and many of her colleagues were skeptical about the company's commitment to fighting harassment.
"They want people to think they care about them, but they do not care," she said. "They could do a much better job."
Another organizer is Kim Lawson, 25, from Kansas City, who also filed a complaint from the EEOC claiming that managers did not respond effectively when she reported sexual harassment by an employee.
Lawson, who has a 4-year-old daughter, says she earns $ 9 per hour. It is strengthened by strong support from other employees for the planned outage.
"Everyone has been brave," she said. "It's time to stand up for what we believe in."
Up to now, the almost one year old # MeToo movement has not triggered a strike aimed at a specific American company. Last March, at International Women's Day, there were broad calls for women to stay away from work in different countries, especially in Western Europe.
Annelise Orleck, a history professor at Dartmouth College, who wrote about low-paid workers, said she has only one precedent in the United States for the planned McDonald's outage.
In 1912, she said, hundreds of garment workers in a corset factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, walked away from the runway in a strike motivated by pervasive sexual harassment, as well as other poor working conditions. The strikers did not receive all their requirements, but managed to get public support and to draw attention to abuses in the workplace.