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McDonald’s Workers Strike Over Widespread Sexual Harassment

Above Photo: McDonald’s workers striking Tuesday are focused on sexual harassment, but have been asking for years, as at this 2015 Minnesota protest, for a $15 hourly minimum wage. (Fibonacci Blue/ Flickr)

McDonald’s workers in 10 U.S. cities plan to strike Tuesday at lunchtime over sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation at the fast-food company.

“Whatever [anti-harassment] policy they have is not effective,” Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney with Fight for $15, a fair pay organization, told The Associated Press. Carlson has been working with 10 McDonald’s workers who filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about predatory workplace behavior including groping and propositions for sex.

“I couldn’t deal with it physically, just going into the workplace,” Tanya Harrel said. Harrel, who claims to have experienced sexual harassment twice from two different coworkers over the course of a month at a New Orleans McDonald’s, filed a complaint with the EEOC backed by the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. She also took some time off from work.

“I couldn’t afford to pay my phone bill, couldn’t afford my grandmom’s medicine. I had to really ask people for money because I was so scared to go back to work,” Harrel said.

“All the men feel like they have all the power, so they’ll cut your hours. Or if they can’t, they’ll just make your day a living hell,” Adriana Alvarez, a Chicago-based strike organizer and McDonald’s employee, told The New Republic. “They make you feel like you are nothing, just because you tried to stand up against them.”

Workers in Chicago, Durham, N.C., Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and St. Louis are planning to take part in the strike.

“Most companies have a policy saying no sexual harassment, but how do you make that work? Right now, because of the huge power disparities, it’s easy to just wait out the complaints and nothing really changes,” National Women’s Law Center CEO Fatima Goss Graves told The Associated Press. Graves’ organization runs the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.

McDonald’s, in an email to The Associated Press, defended itself: “McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same,” the company said.

In 2016, 15 restaurant cashiers and cooks teamed up with Fight for $15 to file complaints about sexual harassment at McDonald’s with the EEOC as well. Reuters reported that McDonald’s “did not immediately comment on the company’s sexual harassment policy or what, if any actions, were taken after the 2016 accusations.”

But in the time of #MeToo, the workers going on strike Tuesday maintain hope that their demands will be heard.

“I am a person; I am a woman. I matter,” Harrel said.


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