McDonald’s workers strike against sexual harassment in several major cities
Thursday, September 20, 2018
A lot has changed in labor organizing as the Fight for $15 campaign, which seeks to raise the minimum wage, and the #MeToo movement addressing workplace sexual harassment recently merged to target workplace sexual harassment against McDonald’s workers.
On Sept. 19, McDonald’s workers in 10 cities — including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Durham, and Kansas City — hit the streets demanding better sexual harassment training programs, a better employee complaint process, and a sexual harassment complaint committee.
The strike, which had workers at many stores walking out at noon and not returning to work for the rest of the day, is the first of its kind to highlight sexual harassment of fast food workers using the strike tactic. 40 percent of female fast food workers report workplace sexual harassment — according to a 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates.
Another demand includes firing the Chicago-based workplace training arm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. According to Bloomberg, this firm has represented Nike Retail Services, Domino’s Pizza and United Continental Holdings, and it is "defending the Weinstein Co. against a proposed racketeering class-action lawsuit alleging the company was complicit in film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct."
Harvey Weinstein is the Hollywood film producer currently facing 11 sexual misconduct cases — including assault. Over 80 women have reportedly stated that they have been assaulted or harassed be Weinstein, including actress Ashley Judd who is currently in court against Weinstein.
This news about Weinstein galvanized the #MeToo movement, which has taken Hollywood by storm, setting off a series of unfolding complaints and legal cases launched by actors and actresses in the film industry and beyond.
The fast food industry is one of the largest employers in the United States, and work conditions are such that workers face long hours with low pay and lack of healthcare, in addition to the possibility of being harassed at work.
Sexual harassment is an issue workers have addressed over the decades since the 1960s and '70s women’s liberation movement raised awareness of the topic. The workplace is an important site of struggle against harassment since workers can be held captive to co-workers, managers, and bosses who create a hostile workplace climate.
This is why the #MeToo movement’s merger with Fight for $15 is so important. It mobilizes two distinct organizations, with large support from women and workers organizations, to tackle the workplace harassment problem.
Walmart has also been under fire in recent years for ignoring sexual discrimination and harassment in its stores. The retail giant is famous for not promoting female workers to management positions and paying women less, culminating in a high profile class-action case that is ongoing.
Recently, the company was ordered to pay $363,419 in a lawsuit initiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This case involved an intellectually disabled woman who was sexually harassed by a co-worker in Akron, Ohio. The settlement "requires Walmart to provide sexual harassment training to managers at store #1911 and to human resources managers responsible for that store."
The EEOC received complaints from 15 McDonald’s workers in 2016 and 10 filed this year.
At McDonald’s, stories of workplace harassment, including groping, are accompanied by usual complaints that managers did nothing to address the problem. While the boundaries of appropriate workplace behavior may seem obvious, many managers have not been properly trained to recognize harassment. This is still the case with many U.S. workplaces, despite the rapidly changing business climate ushered in by #MeToo.
In recent rallies across the country, workers told their stories of harassment and vowed to continue the fight for a harassment-free workplace that offers a living wage.
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