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McDonald's strikers

Employees of a McDonald's in North Charleston, South Carolina walked out with workers across the United States for a one-day strike on October 26, 2021. (Photo: NC Raise Up/Twitter)

McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett

Amid of wave of worker walkouts that supporters are collectively calling "Striketober," McDonald's employees in at least 12 U.S. cities took to the streets Tuesday to raise concerns about how the fast food giant has handled sexual harassment and to demand a union.

"No matter what McDonald's says, not much has changed for workers like me."

Though McDonald's in April announced new sexual harassment training standards that all of its restaurants worldwide will be required to meet by January 2022, workers still joined the one-day walkout from Chicago and Detroit to Houston and Miami, charging that the company has not done enough to keep employees safe on the job.

"I'm going on strike because despite years of protests, McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe," Jamelia Fairley, a McDonald's employee in Florida said in a statement ahead of the walkout. "No matter what McDonald's says, not much has changed for workers like me."

"I do believe that we're in a moment where workers are standing up more for their rights," said Fairley, a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit accusing McDonald's of systemic sexual harassment. "I have met others who have experienced sexual harassment… We want a union to prevent it from happening."

The strike comes after a civil lawsuit filed against McDonald's in September alleged that Walter A. Garner, a 42-year-old manager previously convicted of sexual assault, raped a 14-year-old employee in the bathroom of a franchise restaurant operated by Rice Enterprises in Pennsylvania.

Michele Rice of Rice Enterprises said last month that the manager was fired "as soon as we learned about a complaint against him." Garner was charged with rape but his attorneys negotiated a plea of indecent sexual assault and corruption of a minor, according to KDKA in Pittsburgh. He was sentenced last week to four to 10 years in prison and five years probation.

McDonald's—which has over 39,000 locations across 119 countries—said in a statement to the Associated Press that it expects all of its restaurants including franchises to meet its harassment training requirement and investigate all allegations.

The company's statement added that every employee "deserves to feel safe and respected when they come to work, and sexual harassment and assault have no place in any McDonald's restaurant."

Tuesday's action also comes after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, at the end of September, sued another McDonald's franchisee, AMTCR, for subjecting young employees at 22 locations in Arizona, California, and Nevada to "egregious sexual harassment" that included "unwanted groping and touching, offensive comments and gestures regarding male genitalia, unwelcome sexual advances, sexual ridicule, intimidation, and insults."

AMTCR declined to comment to the Chicago Tribune, which reported on the Tuesday walkout in the Windy City, home to the fast food company's headquarters.

"It's time for McDonald's to address the pattern of sexual harassment in its stores," Adriana Alvarez, a 29-year-old who said she has worked at a restaurant in the Chicago suburb of Cicero for a decade, told the Tribune.

Alvarez said she hasn't experienced sexual harassment while working at McDonald's but has seen it happen to co-workers. She added that the new standards can't hurt, as long as the company doesn't "keep trying to brush it under the rug."

According to the newspaper, Alvarez and other activists at the Chicago protest also called for a union "to ensure our voices can be heard."

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