At a time where a nominee to the Supreme Court is being accused of rape, attention again falls on the #MeToo movement that launched into the public consciousness last year with the accusations against Harvey Weinstein.
But most abusers are not famous, and most survivors are not able to call attention to their cause. So, ordinary women came up with an extraordinary solution: a strike. On National Cheeseburger Day, McDonald’s employees walked out as part of the first major #MeToo strike.
Businesses, including McDonald’s, offered deals to encourage customers to flock to their stores for Tuesday’s festivities, making it a very high-stakes time for employees to walk out during the lunch rush. The strike included workers in Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando; and San Francisco.
San Francisco @NorCalFF15 @fightfor15 @McDonalds #MeToo strike at 24th & Mission #McDonalds They marched there in silence & then spoke out & read their demands https://t.co/Yzm4aemguq #FightFor15 #FastFoodStrike pic.twitter.com/7GYP8cZg68
— Steve Rhodes (@tigerbeat) September 18, 2018
“We’re breaking our silence, we’re making history,” said Teresa Cervantes, a Chicago McDonald’s employee. “So youth will have a better future.”
Cervantes went to her manager’s office to request a schedule change where another manager asked if she had come for “pito“, Spanish slang for “dick”. The manager Cervantes was looking for had a reputation for pressuring workers into sex in the office or bathrooms.
— Sam Wohns (@samwohns) September 18, 2018
Tanya Harrell worked at a New Orleans McDonald’s where she was aggressively touched in “private areas”. A different coworker forced her into a bathroom stall and “did a lot of uncomfortable things.” Management did not take her allegations seriously, she told the Cut.
“The owners really don’t care,” she said. “I really feel like they don’t care at all.”
Harrell’s was one of ten McDonald’s #MeToo stories in federal complaints in just one week earlier this year. Cooks and cashiers across eight states filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC also received complaints from the Fight for $15 last year, highlighting fifteen cases of sexual misconduct in the workplace at McDonald’s.
McDonalds workers are on strike against sexual harassment to raise awareness, hold them accountable, and push for better resources when issues arise. If you’re able, don’t eat at McDonalds today. Standing with McDonalds employees & those who have experienced sexual harassment 💙 pic.twitter.com/DSv2gW6qjC
— venkayla (@VenkaylaHaynes) September 18, 2018
“It’s time to say, ‘I’m not on the menu,'” Ali Baker, a member-leader with the Restaurant Opportunity Center, said Tuesday. “Time’s up, McDonald’s.”
Baker spoke outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters and “Hamburger University” in Chicago about her history with #MeToo in minimum wage food service.
“I’ve been backed into a corner by my boss, I’ve been kissed by my manager, I’ve had my legs groped, I’ve been put in uncomfortable situations where it was easier to go along,” she told the crowd.
At the @McDonalds HQ for @MsMagazine w/ restaurant workers and activists to say #metoo and demand that McD ends workplace sexual harassment. This is the first strike against sexual harassment in over 100 years. #shutitdown pic.twitter.com/ipjNnDLti5
— Brock Colyar (@UnhappyFem) September 18, 2018
According to a 2016 survey, 40 percent of women in fast food reported sexual harassment on the job by their employer, and 45 percent of women in fast food reported health problems such as anxiety, insomnia and depression due to harassment on the job. And low-wage workers are in especially vulnerable situations when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The Cheesburger Day strike is the first sexual harassment strike to go nationwide since corset makers in Michigan over a century ago. The #MeToo McDonald’s strike was called “unprecedented“.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.