On the Picket Line: #MeTooMcDonalds, Amazon workers & more

#MeTooMcDonald’s confronts U.S. CEO

The president of McDonald’s USA, Chris Kempsczinksi (worth $15.3 million as of February 2019), was a featured speaker at the annual Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum on Oct. 7. He and WSJ invitees were surprised when a determined group of survivors of McDonald’s workplace sexual harassment, all Black women, crashed the meeting. Calling themselves #MeTooMcDonald’s, the brave women demanded an end to “low pay, sexual harassment, violent attacks and attacks on union rights.” 

An Oct. 10 email about the protest was titled “We Demand to Meet With the President of McDonald’s USA.” And a video of the action with the same title was posted on the Facebook page of Fight for 15. Tanya Harrell, who has sued the mega-billion-dollar corporation demanding it do more to stop sexual assault on the job, said: “Black women are the backbone of our communities, but we experience more sexual harassment than anyone else in the workplace. After Monday’s action, I know that when we get together and demand justice, we’re a force to be reckoned with.” She added: “There will be no change for us, without us.” 

To sign a petition in solidarity with the workers, go to #MeTooMcDonalds.org. For those in the fast food industry who’ve been harassed or assaulted, here’s a number to call:  844-384-4495.

Amazon night-shift strike in Eagan, Minn.

On the night of Oct. 2 in Eagan, Minn., nearly 60 Amazon warehouse workers stood outside in the freezing rain in a 2 ½-hour work stoppage. The crew — mostly immigrant women of Somali descent — demanded better pay for the night shift, weight restrictions on boxes and reversal of a cap on the 30-hour weekly workload. The night shift workers often lift boxes up to 70 pounds, and rest breaks for workers’ 9-hour shift is a measly 15 minutes. Pay currently sits at around $16.25 an hour.

The workers ended the strike after a manager stated that all truck deliveries were cancelled for the night and issues would be resolved in the morning. Strike organizer Kadijo Mohamed told the Oct. 3 Vice that the workers decided to strike because it was the only way to get their bosses’ attention. “The managers don’t listen,” she said. “They ignore complaints. Sometimes they say, ‘If you can’t handle this job, you can quit.’” The strike follows a righteous wave of Amazon worker actions across the country, but especially at the warehouse in Eagan, Minn. (See coverage in Aug. 23 WW.) 

Workers help save facility for mentally ill in San Francisco

Residents and staff were shocked Aug. 21 when without warning eviction notices from the San Francisco Department of Public Health were sent to all severely mentally ill residents at the Adult Residential Facility. Shutting it down set off citywide outrage and sparked a spontaneous protest the next day. Virtually overnight, residents, health advocates and workers, members of Service Employees Union (SEIU) Local 1021 and Technical Employees (IFPTE) Local 21, gathered over 1,200 signatures on a petition to stop the closure. They delivered it to the SF Health Commission’s Aug. 22 meeting after over 200 activists shut it down. 

Though the DPH initially refused to negotiate with the workers, who had been persistently grieving serious understaffing and cuts to programs, the new plan adopted on Oct. 15 helps both residents and workers by increasing staff and providing more comprehensive training needed to improve patient care. An SEIU 1021 press statement noted that a joint group of staff and management has been authorized for the first time to work on hiring and training, among other issues. Both unions claim this is a victory for patients and for San Francisco! (seiu1021.org)

Contract victory for 20,000 northwest workers

After a month of strong union boycotts against gender discrimination and months of negotiating, nearly 20,000 Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 members in Oregon and southwest Washington voted to approve collective bargaining agreements with workers at more than 90 Fred Meyer and Safeway grocery stores. Voting took place Oct. 4 -11. 

The new agreement runs three years and for the first time will guarantee 20 hours a week for workers who want it. (KXL.com, Oct. 12) It also includes a fought-for victory, pay equity for Schedule B workers, mostly women who called attention to gender pay disparity: lower pay in historically majority-women departments like deli and bakery. Apprentices, who now get 10 cents above minimum wage, will see a raise of $2 an hour. The first year’s contract will be retroactive, so workers will immediately see bigger checks. (NW Labor Press, Oct. 12) When unions fight they achieve!

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