Workplace sexual harassment is a grim reality for women of all professions. However, it’s notoriously egregious for women who work in restaurants and service-industry jobs. In May, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against McDonald’s on behalf of 10 female employees, and now, workers at the fast food chain plan to continue to protest workplace harassment by staging a walkout on September 18th.
According to the Associated Press, the strike will take place during lunchtime at McDonald’s restaurants in 10 cities across the country: Chicago, Durham, Kansas City (Missouri), Orlando, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and St. Louis. The protests were reportedly planned and approved by women’s committees at several restaurants, and several of the women who filed the May lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also helped with planning.
Organizers told the AP that hundreds of McDonald’s employees are expected to participate. The protest will be the first multi-state action against sexual harassment, and several leaders of prominent women’s groups will attend.
Inc.com notes that the event will be the first strike over workplace sexual harassment since 1912.
In a statement to the AP, a McDonald’s spokesperson defended the company’s sexual harassment procedures, writing that, “We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants.” But the employees participating in the strike feel otherwise. When the EEOC lawsuit was filed in May, the advocacy group Fight for $15, which has helped organize the protests, told ABC News that many of the employees experiencing harassment often faced retaliation for reporting it.
Even after the #MeToo movement, the American Psychological Association found that only 32% of Americans say their employers have made changes to curb workplace sexual harassment. This highlights just how necessary these protests are—not only for McDonald’s employees, but for all workers. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work, and we hope these walkouts force employers to realize that things need to change.