New York, NY – Fast food workers at McDonald’s outlets nationwide are demanding paid sick leave and more protections for “everyone who wears the uniform” this week.
All across the country, low-wage earners reliant on the Golden Arches for their livelihoods are speaking in hushed whispers between Big Mac orders— wondering if they or their co-workers might be getting sick and what they’ll do if they fall ill with Coronavirus.
“Workers are debating what to do if we start experiencing symptoms,” Maurilia Arellanes, a McDonald’s worker from San Jose, California, told reporters on Tuesday. “All [the managers] promised was more sanitizers – that is simply not enough.”
The 49-year-old said that despite the growing concern over the coronavirus, McDonald’s workers are being pressured to make their shifts “no matter what.”
When Arellanes did take a sick day last year after succumbing to the flu, her work hours were knocked down to just 27 hours a week. She says she had plead for a solid month before her shifts were restored.
“Fast food workers can’t do their jobs form home — and we can’t skip a shift,’ Fran Marion, a McDonald’s worker from Kansas City, Missouri, told reporters. “A two-week quarantine would be devastating for our families.”
Health officials are advising anyone who feels sick to stay home from work and tell their doctor if they suspect they might have the Coronavirus.
In addition to paid sick days, workers with the Fight for $15 campaign are demanding McDonald’s — the second-largest employer in the nation — update safety protocols, pay for any missed shifts due to store closures, establish a fair return process for employees forced to stay home and increase staffing levels to maintain effective cleaning methods.
Judi Conti, government affairs director at NELP — the National Employment Law Project — says the Coronavirus outbreak has made the nation’s “shoddy collection of worker rights painfully clear” and called on McDonald’s to not only enact the new protections — but to make them permanent.
“Just [losing] a day or shift of work can throw [workers’] entire month off. It’s unconscionable,” Conti told reporters.
McDonald’s issued a statement insisting the “health and wellbeing of our people, our customers and our communities is our highest priority and drives our decision making.”
“As we proactively monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we are continuously evaluating our policies to provide flexibility and reasonable accommodations. Our people are the heart and soul of the McDonald’s family and, of course, we will support them through this unique circumstance,” a spokesperson for the multi-billion-dollar corporation said this week.
Use of “our people” language during the coronavirus outbreak is interesting coming from McDonald’s — during labor disputes, the company routinely claims that staffers who wear the McDonald’s uniform, but who may technically work for franchisees — are not actually their employees.
Fed up and frightened McDonald’s workers are not willing to wait around passively for the corporation to respond to their demands, however.
On Thursday, McDonald’s workers in three Florida cities had planned to hit the picket line protesting the fast food king’s inaction on a whole raft of labor concerns including, low-wages, sexual harassment and the absence of union rights. Those plans have since been altered due to the coronavirus outbreak. Workers will strike – but from home.
“I have worked at McDonald’s for over twelve years and every week is a struggle,” striking McDonald’s worker Bobby Fields said in a statement. “I have to stretch every penny and make impossible choices just to pay my rent. I am going to make my voice heard on the strike line for $15 and union rights because my co-workers and community deserve better.”