Responding to rampant alleged sexual misconduct and emboldened by the #MeToo movement taking root nationally, McDonald’s workers across 10 U.S. cities abandoned their restaurants at lunchtime Tuesday to take part in what is being hailed as the first multi-state strike to specifically target sexual harassment.
And the McReckoning has been a long time coming.
In May, the Fight for $15 campaign and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund teamed up to help 10 women from cities across America — one of whom is just 15 years old — lodge complaints against the fast-food giant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the filing, one 20-year-old woman in Durham, North Carolina, reported that a shift manager once told her he wanted to have a threesome with her and a co-worker; another manager repeatedly called her “hot ass,” “hot pants” and “hot mama.” Another woman from Gretna, Louisiana, said a co-worker would grab her hand and place it on his crotch, and would also grope her breasts and butt.
“I felt totally exposed, as if I did not have a skin or shell,” the woman wrote in the complaint. “I felt like I was outside of my own body, watching what was happening.”
In each instance, managers and supervisors stood by and did nothing while the harassment occurred; in some cases, workers’ hours were docked after they filed internal complaints at their franchises.
The complaints are in line with similar allegations filed with the EEOC in 2016, when hourly workers in eight states came forward to allege their hours had been cut and their complaints went ignored after they notified supervisors of various forms of harassment on the job.
The action also comes as unions are putting increased pressure on McDonald’s to improve conditions in its stores by implementing a long-sought $15 minimum wage for workers.
In an email to the Associated Press, McDonald’s said it has “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.”
But Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney for the Fight for $15 campaign, told Jezebel she doubts the company’s stated commitment to ameliorating the complaints.
“Frankly, when McDonald’s is serious about solving a problem, it knows how to do it,” Carlson said. “When they have tainted lettuce in 17 states, they don’t say, ‘Oh, this is only a problem for the franchisee.’ They go to work trying to solve the problem across the system.”
The walkouts are happening in select McDonald’s stores: Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis.
According to a Hart Research study conducted in 2016, 40% of women working in the fast-food industry have been sexually harassed at work, including sexual teasing, hugging or touching and receiving unwanted information about others’ sexual interests.