McDonald Workers to Strike in L.A., 9 Other Cities

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A group of McDonald's workers in Los Angeles will take part in a 10-city strike today to confront what they describe as their employer's failure to respond to complaints of widespread groping, lewd comments and unwanted propositions for sex.

The striking L.A. workers will be cooks and cashiers, according to a statement issued by organizers of the walkout. They will demand the fast-food giant form a committee to address sexual harassment, with the panel including workers, representatives from corporate and franchise stores and leaders of national women's groups.

“This committee would chart a path forward to make sure nobody who works for McDonald's faces sexual harassment on the job,” according to strike organizers.

Organizers said the strike will be the first-ever nationwide walkout to protest sexual harassment and the first over the issue since 1912, when garment workers at the Kalamazoo Corset Company walked off their jobs.

Today's strike will begin at noon, during the lunchtime rush in Los Angeles; Chicago; Durham; Kansas City, Missouri; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando; San Francisco; and St. Louis. In Los Angeles, strikers will target the McDonald's at 505 W. Florence Ave.

McDonald's workers say they have assembled a far-reaching coalition to support their effort, including #MeToo, Affirm LA, several SEIU locals, Bernie Brigade, LA Street Vendor Coalition, LA Tenants Union, California for Progress, Ice out of LA, LA Voice, Military Families Speak Out, Union de Vecinos and others.

The walkout was called by members of local Fight for $15 Women's Committees, which formed following the filing of EEOC charges in May, and approved in a nationwide strike vote a week ago today. The EEOC charges filed in May came nearly two years after McDonald's workers in the Fight for $15 filed 16 sexual harassment charges against the company. They show that despite the spotlight on the issue in Hollywood and the media, little has changed for the burger giant's frontline workers, according to strike organizers.

Nearly 20 leading national women's groups joined the Fight for $15 in an open letter to McDonald's in May, calling on the company to address sexual harassment. In the letter, which ran as a full-page advertisement in Crain's Chicago, the groups wrote that McDonald's faces a choice: combat sexual harassment in its stores or face a rejection of its brand by people of conscience.

In addition to demanding the formation of an anti-sexual harassment committee, striking workers will demand McDonald's strengthen and enforce the zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment outlined in its manual and in its franchisees' policies, organizers said. Workers are also calling on the company to hold mandatory training for managers and employees and to create a safe and effective system for receiving and responding to complaints.

Sexual harassment is rampant in the fast-food industry, according to a 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates conducted for the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Ms. Foundation and Futures Without Violence, organizers said. Forty percent of female fast-food workers experience unwanted sexual behavior on the job.

The 2016 Hart Research survey also showed that 42 percent of women in the industry who experience unwanted sexual behavior feel forced to accept it because they can't afford to lose their jobs. The Hart Survey also reported that more than one in five women who face sexual harassment -- 21 percent -- report that, after raising the issue, their employer took some negative action, including cutting their hours, changing them to a less desirable schedule, giving them additional duties and being denied a raise.

McDonald's responded to the strikers' complaints in general terms, saying it pursues policies meant to forestall sexual harassment.

“There is no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind at McDonald's,” the company said in a statement. “Since our founding, we've been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone. We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment.”

Photos: Getty Images

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