11:45am on a Tuesday is rush hour for many fast food workers. The loud squawk of the headpiece signaling the next onslaught of hungry customers, the overbearing shouts from management, and the spray of grease coating the arms of the nearest worker as someone puts the fry in french fry. All in all, fast food can be an extremely stressful job. Unfortunately, that stress can become unbearable when a worker not only has to worry about these conditions and low pay, but also fighting off unwanted sexual advances.
That is why on Tuesday, September 18th, the Fight for 15 Coalition called for a strike of McDonald’s workers. At the height of rush hour, activists and striking workers descended upon a St. Louis McDonald’s, chanting slogans and carrying banners condemning the corporation’s lax enforcement of their “zero tolerance policy” towards sexual harassment. Testimonials where heard by workers who had been harassed and had their claims denied by management and had either been told to “stop complaining” or had been seen as “problem employees,” and had their hours cut as a retaliatory measure to silence them.
Today though, they would not be silenced. One striking worker, by the name of Briana, gave their story of how advances turned to assault, and even then, their management refused to intercede. Not only would they not fire the individual perpetuating these acts, they forced Briana to work alongside their attacker stating that, “If you don’t like it find another job.” After testimonials where given and the chants subsided, the protest moved to a federal building in the heart of St. Louis’ downtown. There Briana was able to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against McDonald’s with the aid of a lawyer provided by Fight for 15.
However, many who have been in Briana’s slip resistant shoes simply quit or are fired for speaking up, never getting justice for what has happened to them, not only at the hands of their attackers but also at the hands of an uncaring corporate bureaucracy that cares more about pushing burgers down consumer’s throats then the well being of their own employees. This is an unfortunate and common theme in any industry under capitalism and can only be ended with the destruction of a system that places profits over people.
Nationally, the #MeToo movement has gained significant traction, so much so that you hear it being discussed at all levels of society. However, the focus on affluent high society members has meant that much of the core message behind #MeToo has been lost in translation for the working class. Its great that a national campaign has removed many disgusting people from positions of power and these things should not be lost on anyone for the win that they are, but what about the workers who face these issues on a day to day basis at the lowest levels of society? Should Dr. Ford’s testimony be any more important than that of Briana’s? That is why it is so significant that organizations such as Fight for 15 take up this cause and bring the righteous assault on predators to the working class, showing that even workers can demand justice, fight for our rights, and win.