Durham McDonald’s workers stage wildcat strike to demand decent pay and protest sexual harassment in the workplace

This week, dozens of fast food workers gathered along a sidewalk outside a McDonald’s in East Durham to protest sexual harassment in the workplace.

At noon on Wednesday, workers gathered at the restaurant on Miami Boulevard to demand that the fast food company pay its workers a living wage.

“What do we want? A union!” they chanted. “When do we want it? Now!”

“I work at this McDonald’s and make $9 an hour,” said Desmond Brown, who works at McDonald’s on Miami Boulevard. “I work hard, and earning only $9 is like they’re spitting in my face. It’s hard to pay my bills. There are drugs I need that are too expensive and that Medicaid won’t cover. I want to live better, but I can’t do it on $9 an hour.

Ending sexual harassment in the workplace was also at the forefront of workers’ concerns on Tuesday.

“Right now workers are being sexually harassed and some people are afraid to speak up because they feel like they might lose their jobs,” said Rita Blalock, a McDonald’s worker from Raleigh who earns 10 dollars an hour after working with the store for the past. 10 years. “A union would help because we would have a voice in our store. It would reduce sexual harassment because then workers wouldn’t be afraid to speak up if they were mistreated. I want McDonald’s to listen to all workers who have been sexually harassed – listen to them and let them have a say in how to resolve the issue.

Wednesday’s protest in Durham came in concert with #Striketober, described by organizers as a wave of walkouts at McDonald’s locations in 10 cities across the United States, where workers called on fast food managers “to eradicate sexual harassment and workplace violence,” according to a press release from NC Raise Up/Fight for $15 and a union.

In addition to fast food workers, the wildcat strike included retail and healthcare workers who stressed the importance of a union to address issues of sexual harassment, violence and discrimination in the workplace. of work.

Organizers say Tuesday’s employee walkout marked the fifth time that workers in the Fight for $15 and a union have gone on strike ‘demanding that McDonald’s address its culture of harassment,’ according to the statement. hurry.

Organizers point to a similar 10-city tour in 2018 and say the protest three years ago was the first strike against sexual harassment in more than 100 years.

“In a suburb of St. Louis, they were chanting, ‘Hold your burgers, hold your fries. Keep your hands away from my thighs. In Chicago, they had blue duct tape that said ‘MeToo’ covering their mouths,” a 2018 New York Times story that chronicles the report of fast food workers. “And in Kansas City, Missouri, [workers] were holding signs bearing the same anti-sexual harassment hashtag with the first letter resembling the golden arches of McDonald’s.

“Little has changed since that first strike for McDonald’s frontline workers, who continue to report a widespread harassment problem,” organizers said in the statement.

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Follow Durham writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an e-mail to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.

Michael A. Bynum