Workers in some (but not every) McDonald’s in ten US cities — Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco, and Durham — walked out on strike for 24 hours last month over sexual harassment.
The strikers, inspired by the #MeToo movement, were backed by the Fight for $15 campaign and the Time’s Up legal aid group.
Workers in low paid, insecure jobs are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, which tends to take place in a general environment of bullying and disrespect. A 2016 survey found that some 40 percent of fast food workers in the US had experienced sexual harassment, and nearly half had felt that reporting it would make things worse.
The strikers were demanding more robust procedures for handling complaints, as well as better training for management.
It is clear from the revelations of the past year in particular that bigger questions are at stake. Changing the bullying culture in a workplace requires collective organisation so that workers are confident to raise their voices, knowing that they will be supported by their co-workers.
The McDonald’s strikers have said that this one day strike was just the beginning. Let’s hope that the notion of collective struggle to challenge bullying behaviour catches on.