The #MeToo movement has finally trickled down from the C-suite all the way to the cash register at your local McDonald’s. According to the Associated Press, employees at McDonald’s restaurants in 10 cities are planning to participate in a one-day strie next week to protest pervasive sexual harassment, the Associated Press reports.
The strike, which was organized by some of the same people who were responsible for the “Fight for $15” movement – the movement to “liberate” fast-food workers from
their jobs poverty wages, will begin at lunchtime on Sept. 18. Restaurants in 10 cities will participate – though not every restaurant in those cities will join the workers. Organizers claim the walkout will be the first multistate strike in the US specifically targeting sexual harassment. The details of the strikes have been approved by “women’s committees” formed at McDonald’s across the US.
Tanya Harrell, one of the organizers of the strike
Some of the strike’s organizers include several women who filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, alleging entrenched harassment at several McDonald’s franchise restaurants. Organizers could not predict how many workers would participate in the strike.
Organizers said the strike would target multiple restaurants – but not every local McDonald’s – in each of the 10 cities: Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis.
They said they could not predict with precision how many workers would join the strike, but noted that hundreds of workers had participated in the committee meetings at which the strike was planned.
McDonald’s defended its anti-harassment efforts in a statement to the AP:
McDonald’s, in an e-mail to The Associated Press, defended its anti-harassment efforts.
“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,” the company said.
The company also disclosed a new initiative that will engage outside experts to work with the company to help “evolve” those policies and procedures. Some of the experts would come from an employment law training firm and an anti-sexual violence organization.
While one labor lawyer who was working with the strike’s organizers said the company’s efforts leave much to be desired.
Labor lawyer Mary Joyce Carlson, who has been collaborating with women who filed the EEOC complaints, says the company needs to back up such gestures with tougher enforcement.
“We see no evidence there’s been any change at all,” she said. “Whatever policy they have is not effective.”
Organizers of the planned walkout say strikers will be demanding that the company improve procedures for receiving and responding to harassment complaints, and require anti-harassment training for managers and employees. Another demand will be formation of a national committee to address sexual harassment, comprised of workers, representatives from corporate and franchise stores, and leaders of national women’s groups.
Carlson is an attorney for Fight for $15, a national movement seeking to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She said McDonald’s has successfully resisted efforts to unionize its employees, and suggested that workers’ anger related to sexual harassment might fuel broader efforts to gain better working conditions.
Some of the strike’s organizers said they’ve been emboldened by the support they’ve received…because if you work at one of the participating restaurants, and you don’t join in the strike, prepare to be labeled a “misogynist” for the rest of your time there.
Among the strike organizers is Tanya Harrell, 22, of New Orleans, who filed a complaint with the EEOC in May alleging that her two managers at a local McDonald’s teased her, but otherwise took no action after she told them of sustained verbal and physical harassment by a co-worker. Harrell, who makes $8.15 an hour, said she and many of her colleagues were skeptical of the company’s commitment to combating harassment.
“They want people to think they care, but they don’t care,” she said. “They could do a way more better job.”
Another organizer is Kim Lawson, 25, of Kansas City, who also filed an EEOC complaint alleging that managers responded ineffectively when she reported sexual harassment by a co-worker.
Lawson, who has a 4-year-old daughter, says she makes $9 an hour. She is heartened by strong support from other workers for the planned walkout.
“Everybody’s been brave about it,” she said. “It’s time to stand up for what we believe in.”
Walking out on a minimum-wage food-service job during the middle of an industry-wide shift toward more automation sounds like a brilliant plan, and we imagine that all of the participants in the strike have put a lot of thought into the consequences.
Of course, if they do participate, nobody should be surprised if they find one of these doing their old job when they return.