McDonald's Workers Are Going on Strike To Protest Sexual Harassment

Forty percent of women in fast food say they've been sexually harassed.
September 12, 2018, 9:20pm

In May, ten McDonald's employees—all women of color (including a 15-year-old girl) who worked at different locations—filed sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although the details of each case differed, taken together, they alleged that McDonald's managers had ignored or even retaliated against women who lodged sexual harassment complaints. The women spoke about skipping work—and passing up pay—to avoid the alleged perpetrators.

Organized under the Fight for $15 movement to raise the minimum wage and funded in part by TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which was born out of #MeToo, the claims hoped to hold McDonald's liable for the working conditions of its franchises and induce the company to implement sexual harassment training and zero-tolerance policies for sexual harassment infractions.

"We would like McDonald’s corporation to step forward, investigate, and be part of a solution with respect to sexual harassment at all McDonald’s stores,” Eve Cervantez, an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, told members of the media at the time.

It seems that the company's response was underwhelming to the workers, who voted today to authorize a one-day strike. Next Tuesday, September 18, employees at restaurants in ten cities—Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis—will walk out at lunchtime to protest the persistent problem of on-the-job sexual harassment.

The AP reports that this will be, "the first multistate strike in the US specifically targeting sexual harassment."

The demands are largely the same as they were four months ago: formalized training and a system for reporting abuse as well as a national committee designed to specifically target sexual harassment. It may come as surprising that McDonald's doesn't already have any or all of these things already in place; it's one of the country's largest employers and dominates the fast food industry, where 40 percent of women claim to have been sexually harassed.

McDonald's statement to the Associated Press included a reference to a "new initiative" bringing in anti-sexual violence experts to help the company update their policies. But labor lawyer Mary Joyce Carlson said that there'd been no demonstrable impact of any new efforts.

“We see no evidence there’s been any change at all,” she said. “Whatever policy they have is not effective.”