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McDonald’s employees in at least 10 cities plan to walk out of work on Tuesday to draw attention to the widespread accusations of sexual harassment and assault at the American fast-food chain.
The employees, organizers said, will strike in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and Miami. They will also call for workers to unionize, since McDonald’s, they say, has failed to adequately protect employees.
“I’m going on strike because despite years of protests, McDonald’s still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe,” Jamelia Fairley, a Florida McDonald’s worker who has sued the chain over the sexual harassment allegations, said in a statement. “No matter what McDonald’s says, not much has changed for workers like me.”
The walkout arrives after years of tumult at McDonald’s over its handling of sexual misconduct claims. Over the last few years, McDonald’s employees have filed more than 50 harassment complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces federal anti-workplace discrimination laws. In 2018, McDonald’s workers walked off the job in what was believed to be the first multi-state strike against sexual harassment in the United States.
Inappropriate relationships between managers and employees were apparently a problem throughout the company: Last year, McDonald’s said it had found “photographic evidence” that former CEO Steve Easterbrook had sexual relationships with three employees in the year before he left the company.
In April, McDonald’s announced it will mandate that 2 million employees—who work at 39,000 stores across the world—will undergo training meant to combat workplace harassment and violence.
“It’s really important that we be very clear: A safe and respectful workplace where people feel like they’re going to be protected is critically important for our business,” McDonald’s new CEO, Chris Kempczinski, told the Associated Press at the time. “It’s just what society is expecting.”
But that measure may have come too late. In September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued one McDonald’s franchise for allegedly tolerating and perpetuating managers and workers’ sexual harassment of mostly teenage female employees. At the franchise—which has 22 restaurants scattered across Arizona, California, and Nevada—workers had to contend with “frequent unwanted groping and touching, offensive comments and gestures regarding male genitalia, unwelcome sexual advances, sexual ridicule, intimidation, and insults,” according to the EEOC.