International labor unions have formed a global coalition to stop alleged systemic sexual harassment at McDonald’s restaurants in seven countries including the United States and France.
The coalition, led by Fight for $15 in the U.S. and unions in Europe and Brazil, filed a complaint Monday with a Netherlands-based group responsible for holding companies responsible for their business conduct under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In a unique strategy, the joint effort aims to force the chain to the bargaining table to address alleged rampant sexual harassment and gender-based violence at McDonald's restaurants.
The complaint is not a lawsuit, and cannot result in any fine or punishment of McDonald’s Corp.
However, the Dutch National Contact Point, or NCP, can compel the Chicago-based quick-service chain into a mediation process to come up with a global standard for protecting employees around the world, union leaders said during a Monday press conference.
“The company has a rotten culture from the top,” said Sue Longley, a representative for the International Union of Foodworkers.
McDonald’s, in a statement, said it will review the complaint when they receive it.
“There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the US and around the world,” the company said. “McDonald’s is a people first company, and we know that crew are the heart and soul of every restaurant. Around the world we believe that McDonald’s and its business partners have a responsibility to take action on this issue and are committed to promoting positive change.”
Kristjan Bragason, a European union leader, said McDonald’s acts like a responsible employer in countries like Finland, Sweden and Germany.
Those countries, he said, should be used as a template for policies around the world.
Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney for labor advocacy group Fight for $15, said the goal of the international complaint is to provide a solution to end sexual harassment in McDonald’s restaurants.
While the group would like to form a union in the U.S., Carlson said “that’s not what this process is about.”
Jamelia Fairley, a McDonald's worker in Florida and a Fight for $15 leader, also spoke about her treatment as a McDonald’s employee since 2016.
She and a former worker filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s last month. Both maintain they were subjected to inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted touching and groping.
Both also said they reported the behavior to managers who did nothing to protect them, a common complaint made by McDonald's employees who allege harassment.
Fairley’s lawsuit is seeking class-action status in a federal district court. The lawsuit contends the company has been aware of an endemic problem of sexual harassment and has not adequately trained workers and managers to stop it.
The global complaint is the latest chapter in what has been years of ongoing worker accusations levied at the global chain. Most allegations have been led by labor advocacy group Fight for $15, which has long accused McDonald’s of creating a toxic work culture.
Last year, McDonald's strengthened its policies to prohibit discrimination and harassment by expanding resources for employees including adding a free hotline for employees to call and report incidents anonymously.
The company has maintained that it has always been committed to ensuring that its employees are able to work in an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.
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Update: This story has been edited to include a statement from McDonald's Corp.