Cooks and cashiers walked off the job at McDonald’s and other quick-service restaurants in California on Thursday to demand they be given personal protection equipment, hazard pay and paid sick leave.
Fight for $15 and a Union, a workers’ rights organization, put the number of strikers in the hundreds and said more than 50 restaurants from Los Angeles to Oakland, Calif., were affected.
It said workers began striking on Sunday after a McDonald’s worker tested positive for COVID-19. That was followed by a strike at McDonald’s San Jose location which began on Monday.
Fight for $15 said nine workers at a Los Angeles Domino’s location where a worker tested positive for COVID-19 joined McDonald’s protestors on Tuesday. It said Thursday’s action included workers from Burger King, Taco Bell, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Popeyes, Jack in the Box, El Pollo Loco and WaBa Grill.
Thursday’s strike in Los Angeles started at the McDonald’s at 7123 Crenshaw Blvd., where the COVID-19 case was reported, followed by a second case of the infection on Wednesday, and then the workers caravanned to the Monterey Park location at 950 Floral Dr.
In the San Francisco Bay area, it started at the McDonald’s at 23989 Watkins St. in Hayward, Calif.
The strikers are demanding $3 per hour extra for hazard pay, two weeks paid quarantine for workers exposed to the virus as well as masks, gloves and soap.
Around 100 people participated in a virtual meeting via the Zoom app at noon Pacific time, including strike participants, state senators Maria Durazo and Holly Mitchell, state Assemblyman Ash Kalra and members of the media.
Durazo voiced her support for the paid sick leave and personal protection equipment, and noted that the government had classified quick-service workers as “essential” workers.
“The government has identified you as essential, so the employers should treat you as essential,” she said.
Mitchell, who’s part of the Los Angeles delegation of the state Assembly, voiced her support for the protestors.
“We’re working very hard to expedite resources to make sure that PPE and all resources are available to all of you.
“We are going to have to do all that we can to make sure that we support workers in this very vulnerable time both in terms of the health pandemic and the economic challenges … that we are facing today,” she added.
She also told protesters that the state had processed more unemployment insurance claims since March 12 than they had in all of 2019, and that she was aware of how many quick-service workers didn’t qualify for unemployment.
Undocumented workers do not qualify for unemployment insurance.
According to the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law on March 18, restaurants are required to provide paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19. Restaurants with more than 500 employees per restaurant are exempt, but multi-unit chains are not.
A McDonald’s USA spokesperson expressed disappointment in the strike.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our number one priority. Since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the U.S. in February, and in accordance with the guidance of the CDC, we’ve continuously evolved our safety programs and processes across the U.S. in order to help customers and restaurant employees feel safe. Our supply chain team is working tirelessly to secure critical supplies, such as non-medical grade masks. In addition to social distancing decals, gloves and protective barriers, masks have started to arrive in franchisee and company owned restaurants with allocation going first to areas where the use of masks is required by law, to hotspots with a high level of confirmed cases in the community and then to the rest of the country. While we fulfill supply across the country, we are recommending permitting the use of DIY mask solutions consistent with recent CDC guidance.
“We are disappointed by today’s activities as they do not represent the feedback we are hearing from the majority of employees across the country where 99% of our Drive-Thrus are open to serve the healthcare heroes on the frontlines.”
A Domino’s spokesperson said they could not confirm whether anyone working for the California franchisee was involved.
The other chains mentioned by Fight for $15 did not respond to requests for comment, however Taco Bell did announce plans Thursday to increase safety protocols at its 7,000 restaurants. Those include employee temperature checks and increasing use of masks when supplies become available. Taco Bell said employees already wear masks in jurisdictions where it is required, including California’s San Diego County.
It is unclear if the protocols were prompted by the protests. Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s global chief operating officer, did say most of the changes were made after receiving feedback from employees.
McDonald’s had previously announced plans to introduce wellness check, including making thermometers available at all restaurants, installing protective barriers at registers and drive-thru windows, and increasing cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
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