Women who work at McDonald's say that they are sick of with supervisors who touch them, ask for sex and expose themselves to work. When they report the behavior, managers ignore them, say or even punish them. So they go on strike.
On Tuesday, September 18, female employees at McDonald's in 10 American cities will organize an eruption to put the company under pressure to address the problem, according to the Associated Press.
The strike is significant because it is the first strike of labor that targets a US company related to #MeToo – a year after Harvey Weinstein's claims inspired hundreds of women to share their experiences with sexual harassment.
The # MeToo movement has overthrown some of the most powerful media managers in America, but industries with a large number of low-paid workers, who are most likely to experience intimidation, have largely been ignored.
"We want to change the culture in McDonalds, and by doing so the culture in the fast food industry is changing, "Mary Joyce Carlson, a lawyer for the Fight For $ 15 labor campaign, told Politico.
In May, 10 women filed complaints about sexual harassment against McDonald's restaurants at the American Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Some of them are now organizing the strike in collaboration with the Time & # 39; s Up Legal Defense Fund, a legal support group for employees who experience sexual harassment, and Fight for $ 15, a working group that fights for higher wages in the fast-food industry.
It is unclear how many employees participate in the strike, but the AP reports that hundreds of women in newly formed women's commissions & # 39; in dozens of McDonald's restaurants before the strike have voted.
The strike takes place at some – but not all – McDonald's restaurants in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and Durham, North Carolina.
A spokesman for the company told the AP on Wednesday that they had different policies and training programs to help franchisees prevent intimidation, and that they hired experts to help "evolve" these procedures.
In the meantime, McDonald's is locked up in a labor dispute about whether the fast food chain is considered a "joint employer" and is therefore partially liable for labor violations committed by individual franchises. The company claims that it is not a joint employer, so it can not be held legally responsible for sexual harassment and other unlawful behavior in the workplace at one of its independently owned restaurants.
This is not the first time that McDonald's is accused of sexual harassment
The best-known American burger chain has been the target of research into multiple discrimination in recent years. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which maintains federal government anti-discrimination laws, has sued various McDonald's franchises over the past decade for sexual harassment claims.
In 2008, a Colorado-based McDonald's franchise agreed to pay $ 505,000 to a group of female employees as part of a settlement with the EEOC. In the original lawsuit, lawyers told the EEOC that teenage girls working in a Denver restaurant were subjected to "serious sexual harassment in the workplace by their male supervisor." The supervisor bit their breasts and grabbed their buttocks and offered favors to exchange for sex.
Subsequently, in 2011, the office challenged the owner of a Wisconsin McDonald's, claiming that the male employees made sexual comments about the bodies of their female counterparts, suggested, kissed, and consented without permission. . Several of the victims were teenage girls in high school.
"Even though you are aware of the situation, [the owner] failed and refused to take swift and appropriate action to correct the harassment and the resulting hostile environment, which meant that at least one of the harassed employees had to stop. Furthermore, the company dismissed other respondents after complaining repeatedly about the behavior of their colleagues, "the EEOC said in a press release at that time, and the restaurant owners settled the deal for $ 1 million.
These are just a few of the issues that the EEOC has agreed to bring to justice. But most female employees have to pursue their own business, which is a heavy burden for low-paid workers in the fast-food industry, many of whom are young and may not be aware of their legal rights.
Restaurant workers and other employees with low wages are more likely to suffer from intimidation
Sexual harassment is particularly serious problem for employees in restaurants and hotels.
From 2005 to 2015, hotel and restaurant staff filed at least 5,000 complaints about sexual harassment at the EEOC – more than any other sector, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress. This number only represents a fraction of all complaints filed by restaurant staff, alone about half of the 85,000 complaints about sexual harassment submitted to the EEOC identified a specific industry in that period.
Employees in these low-paid jobs, and specifically in chain restaurants, are often teenagers or adults who have trouble paying their bills, which makes them easy targets for abuse, said Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"It can be suggested that they are highly replaceable, that because of their status in the workplace, no one will care about their claim or that their claim will make no difference", Palumbo told me last year.
The workers who go on strike next week have a few specific requirements, according to the AP. They want the company to improve the process of receiving and responding to complaints about harassment and requiring training against intimidation for managers and employees. They also want McDonald's to set up a national committee to deal with sexual harassment, consisting of employees, representatives of companies and franchisees.
Women who work for McDonalds and other fast food chains have described what they have to do with this video, published by the Fight for $ 15 campaign. It is worth looking at.