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Not On the Menu – Fast Food Workers Protest Sexual Harassment

October 6, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

McDonald's workers are rallying against sexual harassment.
McDonald’s workers are rallying against sexual harassment.

New York, NY – Already paid poverty wages, a new report issued this week finds a full 40 percent of women working in the fast food industry today have been subjected to creepy sexual behavior on the job that results in stunningly high rates of anxiety, depression and loss of sleep. 

The situation outlined in the Hart Research Associates survey is so severe, that roughly 33-percent of working women of color and 25-percent of white working women, report taking drastic measures — including cutting hours and even quitting — in an effort to escape uggly abuse that runs the gamut from catcalling to sexual assault. 

On Wednesday, 15 federal complaints alleging sexual harassment on the job were specifically launched against the granddaddy of the entire fast food industry — McDonald’s. 

“Scraping by on minimum wage is hard enough without having to deal with groping, requests for sex, or lewd comments about our bodies while on the job,” New York City fast food worker Rosa Rivera said in a statement. “McDonald’s needs to take responsibility for the unacceptable sexual harassment taking place in its stores and it needs to start now.” 

Fed up fast food workers will rally outside the Midtown McDonald’s located at 1651 Broadway on Thursday morning in an effort to pressure the Golden Arches to do just that. 

Sexual harassment claims against McDonald’s are nothing new, however. Two years ago, 10 plaintiffs filed suit against the mangers at three McDonald’s restaurants in Boston and Virginia, alleging high-ranking store supervisors “inappropriately touched” female workers, solicited sex and sent lewd photographs. 

The sexual harassment that fast food workers are alleging at giant chain stores across the nation, including McDonalds, mirrors what tipped workers in the greater restaurant industry have also been experiencing for years. 

Female bartenders and waitresses earning a stagnant sub-minimum wage often find themselves subjected to all sorts of rude and abusive behavior from customers, but are too afraid to speak out because their livelihoods are literally contingent upon the largesse of patrons.

“Alcohol is not sold at the restaurant, but a lot of drunken men and women come into the restaurant and it’s very hard,” restaurant worker Maria Rosas told LaborPress in 2014. “They want to touch you, talk to you, get your phone number, whatever. They want more than just the service and the meal. It’s very stressful, but I need the money.”

The new Hart Research survey released this week continues to reflect the same sad situation inside the restaurant industry. Forty-two percent of the women who reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances on the job said fear of losing their livelihoods forced them into silence. One in five women who did speak out, said they did, indeed, face some form of managerial reprisal.  

Another report from the Restaurant Opportunities Center [ROC], confirms that the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the United States comes from inside the restaurant industry. 

“You definitely come across men that try to push that line,” JFK restaurant worker Courtney Walker told LaborPress two years ago. “But you kind of play the docile role.” 

Despite testimony to the contrary, McDonald’s spokesperson Terri Hickey issued a statement saying that the company and its independent owner-operators “share a deep commitment to the respectful treatment of everyone.”

“There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in McDonald’s restaurants or in any workplace,” Hickey added. “We take any concerns seriously and are reviewing the allegations.”

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