Image source, Fight for $15

Image caption, McDonald’s workers protest in Durham, North Carolina

McDonald’s workers walked out at restaurants in 12 US cities in protest at the fast food giant’s handling of sexual harassment claims.

Organisers, who have held five strikes over harassment since 2018, say McDonald’s has “largely ignored” frontline workers who complain.

Cashiers and cooks walked out in Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Miami among other places on Tuesday.

The chain said “sexual harassment and assault have no place” at McDonald’s.

It is not clear how many in total have joined the strike.

According to Fight for $15, the campaign group organising the action, workers have filed more than 50 complaints and lawsuits alleging harassment at corporate-owned and franchise McDonald’s outlets since 2016.

‘Not much has changed’

Campaigners claim the chain does little to tackle the problem at franchise-run restaurants, which make up the majority, but also at corporate-owned outlets. Moreover, staff who have spoken out have faced retaliation, such as having their hours cut or being fired, organisers say.

“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,” said Jamelia Fairley, a McDonald’s worker in Sanford, Florida.

“No matter what McDonald’s says, not much has changed for workers like me.”

In a 2020 survey of nearly 800 female workers at McDonald’s restaurants and franchises, three-quarters said they were harassed at work.

In the same survey, which was commissioned by unions, 71% said that they suffered consequences for reporting the behaviour.

After a review of workplace safety earlier this year, McDonald’s said it will require all workers, at both corporate and franchise-owned stores, to undergo anti-harassment training from next January.

However, campaigners say the announcement is “short on specifics”, including what might happen to those who fail to follow the rules.

In a statement, McDonald’s said it was committed to “thoroughly investigating” allegations at its corporate-owned restaurants, and that it expected its franchisees to “uphold a similar standard”.

“Every single person working at a McDonald’s restaurant deserves to feel safe and respected when they come to work, and sexual harassment and assault have no place in any McDonald’s restaurant,” it said.

“We know more work is needed to further our workplace ambitions, which is why all 40,000 McDonald’s restaurants [worldwide] will be assessed and accountable to global brand standards.

“These standards prioritise action in multiple areas, including prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”

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