The #MeToo movement has spilled into the fast food industry, and it’s about time: these workers are not high-paid movie stars and professionals with the resources to take on their perpetrators, but often the least-powerful members of society, who must choose between constant workplace harassment and their paychecks.
But on Tuesday, some 50 fast-food workers outside of the 24th Street McDonald’s made sure their voices were heard: they put up with sexual harassment behind the counter at fast food chains on a nearly daily basis — and that, they said, needs to change.
“Can’t take it no more,” they chanted at the busy intersection at around noon.
The mostly female workers, associated with the union-backed “Fight for $15” initiative, donned red shirts and carried signs that read: “MCDONALD’S: NO SEXUAL HARASSMENT” and “#METOO MCDONALD’S.”
The 24th Street demonstration was part of a nationwide strike that included rallies in 10 different cities around the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, St. Louis, and others.
The fast food workers had several demands for McDonald’s. The first: drop Seyfarth Shaw LLP, the law firm defending the Weinstein Company against a proposed class-action lawsuit that alleges the company covered up Harvey Weinstein’s repeated sexual assaults against female employees.
McDonald’s retained the law firm to “evolve” its sexual harassment policy. In the past, the firm has also represented major corporations, such as Nike and Domino’s Pizza.
The workers’ other demands: strengthen and better enforce its sexual harassment policies and provide mandatory training to all employees on how to prevent and address it.
In a prepared statement from Fight for $15, the protesters called for a national committee “comprised of workers, representatives of corporate and franchise stores, and leaders from national women’s groups” to chart a path to eliminate workplace sexual harassment at McDonald’s.
“It’s always happening, and it always gets swept under the rug,” said 29-year-old Jacqueline Young, who works at a Burger King in Sacramento and came to San Francisco for the strike.
Young said she has not personally experienced harassment at her job, but regularly hears stories and witnesses it happening to her co-workers. She said it could be anything from inappropriate comments to unwanted touching and groping to a subtle brush in the freezer.
“This happens in every city in every fast food workplace,” said Ruth Silver Taub, a member of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition, who wore a red shirt in solidarity with the workers.
According to a 2016 survey, 40 percent of female fast-food workers experience unwanted sexual behavior on the job. The survey also showed that 42 percent of women in the industry who experience unwanted sexual behavior feel forced to accept it because they can’t afford to lose their jobs.
Taub said social class, language barriers and immigration status are major factors preventing female fast food workers from coming forward. “I do believe that people are frightened especially in this climate with immigration threats,” she said. “But also with class — people don’t feel empowered.”
By 1:30 p.m., some of the strikers flowed into the 24th Street Bart station. Their next stop: San Jose.
Video by Jennifer Cortez and Pedro A. Cota.