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Hundreds of Chicago Cooks, Cashiers from 50 Fast-Food Restaurants To Strike Wednesday Over Unsafe Conditions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Worker at Chicago McDonald’s Tests Positive for COVID-19; Cooks, Cashiers File OSHA Complaint Citing ‘Serious and Imminent Hazards’

Call for Quarantine Periods with Full Pay, Masks, Protective Equipment, Hazard Pay, Respect on Job

Angered by McDonald’s response after a Chicago worker tested positive for COVID-19 and inspired by a statewide fast-food strike in California, hundreds of cooks and cashiers from more than 50 fast-food restaurants across Chicago will strike Wednesday demanding McDonald’s and other fast-food companies do more to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

The strike comes as workers at a downtown Chicago McDonald’s learned late last week that their coworker tested positive for COVID-19, but managers never closed the store down for a deep cleaning, nor did they tell workers who had direct or indirect contact with the infected worker to self-quarantine, in violation of instructions from the Chicago Department of Health. Workers filed a complaint Tuesday with OSHA’s Chicago South Area Office alleging they will be “disciplined or fired” if they stay home and that McDonald’s response is putting their health, and that of customers, at risk. 

“The conditions in our store pose an imminent danger to our health and that of our coworkers,” the complaint reads. “The managers did not inform all the workers who were in the store during that week and might have had either direct or indirect contact with the sick worker.  And the company has not done any additional sanitizing of the store (beyond the usual daily cleanup) after the company found out about the worker with COVID.” 

Strikers Wednesday will demand McDonald’s allow workers to self-quarantine for two full weeks with pay if they come in direct or indirect contact with someone who is sick, and they’re demanding masks, gloves, hazard pay and the ability to properly social distance on the job. 

“Fast-food companies like McDonald’s are failing to protect workers during this public health crisis, and I’m scared to death,” said Carlos de Leon, a crew member at the downtown McDonald’s where a coworker tested positive for COVID-19. “Are burgers and fries more important than our lives?”

Because of the state stay-at-home order, workers will protest on a Zoom picket line instead of on in-person strike lines. The Rev. Dr. William Barber and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry will join workers on the video call to show their support. A digital billboard featuring video of McDonald’s workers on the frontlines in the COVID-19 pandemic will be driven in a loop around downtown Chicago Wednesday, starting at McDonald’s headquarters, with stops at various McDonald’s restaurants. 

WHO: Striking workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle, Culver’s, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, Pizza Hut, Popeyes, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s; the Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union

WHAT: Zoom strikeline to demand protection on the job from COVID-19 pandemic 


WHEN: Wednesday, April 15 at 12 pm CDT


Wednesday’s strike in Chicago is also inspired by an ongoing series of walkouts by McDonald’s and other fast-food workers in California.  Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, McDonald’s workers have now gone on strike in Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, San Jose, St. Louis and Tampa demanding personal protective equipment, hazard pay, paid sick leave, paid quarantine periods and more. A statewide walkout in California last week included hundreds of workers from more than 50 fast-food restaurants.

On Tuesday, in Connecticut, workers announced two McDonald’s stores at rest stops on I-95 have continued operating without disinfecting properly after workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, threatening the health of other workers as well as of first responders, truck drivers, and all others who need to use the service plazas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s response to the pandemic has drawn ire from elected officials to the Internet. McDonald’s decision to separate its famed golden arches was widely ridiculed online. Business Insider reported the company successfully lobbied members of Congress and President Trump to carve most of its workforce out of the sick leave provisions in the federal coronavirus bill.

In a letter to McDonald’s, Sen. Elizabeth Warren demanded answers for how McDonald’s was protecting its workers. Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to McDonald’s calling on the company to immediately provide paid leave to all its workers. Business Insider also reported leaked documents showed the company is worried its reputation is suffering a “black eye” due to its response to the pandemic. 

Two-thirds of McDonald’s workers believe the company isn’t doing enough to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly one-quarter say they’ve gone to work sick during the crisis, a new survey by the Service Employees International Union shows.SEIU conducted a nationwide online survey of 843 McDonald’s workers between March 31 and April 6, 2020. The survey showed many workers lack key protections like masks, gloves and paid sick days.

Nearly half of survey respondents who worked in the last week report that gloves are either totally unavailable or have limited availability, while four in 10 say store management told them not to wear personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. Of those workers, more than half reported that store management told them that crew members in gloves and masks “scare customers” and 40% report that store management does not think these personal protections are necessary.

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