Sexual harassment is rampant in the fast-food industry, according to a 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates conducted for the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Ms. Foundation and Futures Without Violence, organizers said.
Responding to rampant alleged sexual misconduct and emboldened by the #MeToo movement taking root nationally, McDonald's workers across 10 USA 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.
Kim Lawson, a single mother working at a McDonald's in Kansas City, Missouri, said she was going on strike to set an example for her daughter.
In Chicago, another worker said she was sacked after she reported her manager for sexual harassment, according to NWLC.
McDonald's did not specifically address its use of Seyfarth Shaw, but said in its own emailed statement that the company has "strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically created to prevent sexual harassment".
Supported by organizations including the National Women's Law Center, McDonald's workers have lodged more than a dozen sexual harassment complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent years. 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.
Complaints range from explicit language to unwanted groping and touching, to coercion from supervisors for sexual favors.
"People are scared. They worry that if they complain it will affect their legal status, they could get fired or there could be retaliation", she said. "I can't tell her to stand up for herself if I'm not willing to stand up for myself".
In an email to the AP, McDonald's officials wrote, "We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically created to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment". "To ensure we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response including, RAINN, to evolve our policies so everyone who works at McDonald's does so in a secure environment every day".
"The comments kept coming about my lips about, how my uniform fitted me in all the right places, how I'd looked good on top of them".
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.
Employees at McDonald's in numerous cities will be participating in the strike. Harrell, who makes $8.15 an hour, said she and many of her colleagues were skeptical of the company's commitment to combating harassment.