McDonald’s Workers Across the US Stage #MeToo Protests - http://ezmoneyonlinefromhome.com | how to make money onlineSeptember 19, 2018 1:46 am
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In a St. Louis suburb, they chanted, “Hold your burgers, hold your fries. Keep your hands off my thighs.” In Chicago, they had blue duct tape that said “MeToo” covering their mouths. And in Kansas City, Mo., they held signs bearing the same anti-sexual harassment hashtag with the first letter styled to look the McDonald’s golden arches.
In what organizers said was the first strike in more than 100 years to protest sexual harassment in the workplace, hundreds of McDonald’s employees in those cities and seven others rallied to demand that the largest fast food chain in the country do more to combat the problem.
“We’re protesting today and this is more important than work,” said Kimberly Lawson, explaining that she was skipping her shift to take part in the Kansas City rally. Ms. Lawson told the crowd there she had felt “trapped” when a manager made unwanted advances.
“We have the strength to protect one another and demand the justice we deserve,” she said.
Restaurant workers account for a huge slice of the United States labor force, with the fast food sector creating more jobs than nearly any other in the past decade. But restaurants typically pay low wages and employ a disproportionate number of young people and women, making those who work in the industry particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment.
The protests on Tuesday were organized by Fight for $15, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The group tries to organize fast food workers and advocates improving their pay and working conditions. In May, with the group’s support, 10 McDonald’s employees filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that male supervisors had made unwelcome advances against them and had retaliated against those who complained.
The goal of the protests was to pressure McDonald’s to institute stronger policies to protect workers from sexual harassment at its more than 14,000 stores in the United States. The demands included better training programs for all workers, a more effective way to report complaints and a committee dedicated to addressing sexual harassment issues.
“What McDonald’s does on this issue, how they choose to treat it, how they act on it proactively, will have influence on other stores,” said Mary Joyce Carlson, a lawyer for workers connected to Fight for $15.
In a statement, McDonald’s said it took the issue seriously and was introducing additional measures to provide further protections for workers. The company declined to comment on employment commission complaints, citing “active litigation.”
“We have strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment,” the statement said. “To ensure we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response.”
Holding employers accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace can be difficult, although they can be held liable if workers can show they were forced to work in a hostile environment where their complaints were ignored or dismissed.
The problem is especially acute in restaurants, where policing bad customer behavior can be hard for workers who depend on tips. The challenges are compounded in the fast food sector because major companies may not consider themselves liable for bad behavior at individual stores.
Those stores are often operated by franchisees that do not always have human resources departments or established procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints. And, broadly speaking, fast food companies have typically argued in labor disputes that they do not share liability with franchisees who independently own and operate their stores.
Worker advocates argue that companies like McDonald’s dictate everything from menu boards to hiring practices, and should be responsible for adopting effective policies to identify and prevent sexual harassment, too.
“The issue is, how much control is the franchiser exerting over the personnel practices of the franchisee?” said Cynthia Calvert, a discrimination lawyer and senior adviser to the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco.
Ms. Carlson, the lawyer who works with Fight for $15, suggested McDonald’s had the power to make a broad impact.
“McDonald’s has a huge system, anything it wants to be effective on, it can be,” she said. “The front-line workers, the cooks, the cashiers, as well as people in the management structure, should have a safe place to report a complaint.”
A McDonald’s worker who took part in the Kansas City protest, Nakisha Eubanks, said she would not be working her shift that night. “They’ve said there will be training, but we haven’t received training,” she said. “There’s actually nothing being done.”
Ms. Carlson said she believed McDonald’s offered such training only to supervisors, and that it did not always trickle down to hourly workers.
“When we first met some of these workers,” she said, “they didn’t even know that the conduct that they were tolerating was unlawful, and they had no idea, after they had unsuccessfully approached managers, that there was anything they could do about it.”
McDonald’s said in its statement that it had engaged experts like Rainn, the nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, “to ensure we are doing all that can be done” to combat sexual harassment.
A Rainn spokeswoman said the group had a “preliminary” conversation with McDonald’s several months ago, but had not yet started working with the company.
At the protest in Chicago, three women who work at a McDonald’s restaurant on the city’s South Side were there together. One, Brenda Harris, 59, said she had worked at McDonald’s since 1995 and had been groped and harassed too many times to count.
“I’m hoping and praying this is going to change things,” she said.
Ellen Durston, Traci Angel and Bill Bryan contributed reporting.