McDonald's workers across the country walked out of their jobs on Tuesday at noon in protest of the company's handling of what they say is widespread sexual harassment—the first multi-state strike taking a company to task for workplace harassment, according to organizers.
Employees in 10 cities—including Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, and San Francisco—are specifically demanding that McDonald's executives end their relationship with the law firm representing Harvey Weinstein's company, which has been advising the fast-food chain on its sexual harassment policies.
“If McDonald’s is serious about meeting worker demands, they’d start by firing Seyfarth,” Shaunna Thomas, the executive director UltraViolet, a women's rights group, told Bloomberg on Thursday, referring to Chicago-based firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
Striking workers say McDonald's management hasn't taken their allegations of sexual harassment on the job seriously, refusing to respond to, let alone investigate, them.
"When I filed a complaint against my shift manager for regularly sexually harassing me—which included him showing me pictures of his genitals—McDonald's had no response," Cycei Monae, an employee at a McDonald's in Flint, Michigan, said.
A McDonald's spokesperson from the company's corporate offices didn't respond to Broadly's questions about whether the franchise would drop Seyfarth Shaw LLP, or revise specific sexual harassment policies as a result of Tuesday's strikes. They said McDonald's was working to "evolve" their policies in partnership with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
"We have strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment," a company spokesperson told Broadly in an emailed statement. "To ensure that we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in areas of prevention and response, including RAINN, to evolve our policies so everyone who works at McDonald's does so in a secure environment every day."
McDonald's workers—who lack union backing—have instead relied on self-led "women's committees" to give them a collective voice. According to Time, some of the committees' leaders filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, in attempts to raise the issue to the awareness of the federal government.
But in the absence of any concrete changes to the company's alleged culture of sexual misconduct, workers have looked to the committees—along with Fight for $15, a group fighting for a higher minimum wage, and Time's Up, the Hollywood-based organization founded in response to the #MeToo movement—to give them striking power.
The strike arrives just a few weeks out of the anniversary of the first wave of #MeToo allegations, sparked by reports on Weinstein's rampant abuse of some of Hollywood's biggest names. Though many agreed that it was necessary to out dozens of high-profile alleged sexual abusers with the power to make or break stars' acting careers, others wondered what would happen to everyday women, whose alleged harassers were often everyday men whose names no one knew.
In the restaurant industry in particular, studies have found that some 90 percent of women report experiencing some form of sexual abuse on the job. McDonald's workers are striking in part to try to lower those numbers.
"I am going on strike for sexual harassment because I believe no one should be sexually harassed, especially at work," Marie Miles, a McDonald's employee, told Fight for $15. "It happened to me when I was younger, and I don't want it to happen to my daughter. I want the workplace to be free of sexual harassment—for her."