As demonstrations against McDonald’s continued across the country, many of the company’s anti-worker practices are being addressed. Under pressure from employees, unions, community organizations, and the public, McDonald’s has finally addressed Coved-19 with equipment in stores, increased paid sick leave, and raised pay for employees.

With workers’ fears of catching the coronavirus, McDonald’s faced unprecedented protests by employees as the coronavirus pandemic continued. Their organization had been slow to address an unprecedented crisis. As a result, the employees working in franchise stores reacted by striking, protesting, and demonstrating. It took the corporate headquarters months to finally roll out a comprehensive safety program. By that time, the employee rallies, walkouts, and protests gained public support. The image of the Golden Arches was severely damaged along with their bottom line. The loss of income from Coved-15 along with unrest among workers caused tension between executives and franchisees.

Supported by influential unions as RWDSU, SEIU and UNITEHERE, McDonald’s had become enemy No.1 to the labor establishment along with Walmart. Unions backed key progressive and community organizations creating a formidable army of opposition against this giant corporation with 900,000 employees. Labor began winning a war against the largest most powerful restaurant empire in the country.  

Fight for 15, backed and financed with broad union support, organized its first protest in Florida on March 12th. This was significant since, for the first time, workers’ rights were linked to the pandemic crisis. Immediately following this civil action, the unrest against the company spread to 10 cities. Employees demanded paid sick leave, personal protective equipment, and higher pay for working during the pandemic. With McDonald’s still not addressing legitimate safety concerns expressed by staff and patrons, and a spreading epidemic, the company began taking a serious financial hit. A business model that depended on loyal customers and a stable trained workforce began to crumble.

As COVID-19 swept through the country, the restaurant industry went into crisis mode. With an employee revolt creating bad press and an epidemic shutting down restaurants, McDonald’s had begun fighting a two front war to stay alive. Sales slumped as sheltering in place took hold. With franchisees owning 95% of the stores these independent owners became more sensitive to employee and patron issues. The owner-operators felt the corporate office wasn’t addressing the issues resulting from both the pandemic and worker revolt. As sales continued a downturn, the corporate response did not satisfy the store owners. McDonald’s created further animosity and conflict when it required franchisees to cover costs for needed safety equipment and additional employee expenses. As the epidemic continued, the owner-operators and employees began seeing the corporate headquarters as their common enemy.  

McDonald’s, with an employee revolt, franchisees threatening to sue, public image damaged, and a national epidemic that closed restaurants, was forced into a defensive mode for the first time in its history. Their headquarters finally got a message. Safety equipment began flowing into the stores and worker issues were being addressed. Employees were awarded two weeks of paid sick leave, worker pay was raised, and health benefit options were being considered.

The main battle is around the corner. Labor is planning to unionize the entire franchise network and McDonald’s is committed to maintaining a union-free operation without one store unionized.


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