By TIM ROWDEN
Barbara Johnson was 17, working her first day on the job at a McDonald’s restaurant in St. Louis last year when she was sexually harassed by a co-worker.
The co-worker made comments about her body, his own body, and what he would like to do to her.
Johnson’s manager laughed about it.
The harassment continued, day after day.
“He made comments about how juicy my lips was, how cute I am, how my uniform fit me in all the right places, how I’m thick in all the right places. He’d look at me and lick his lips. It all made me feel uncomfortable, like I was unsafe.”
Johnson didn’t know who to turn to. During her hiring and orientation process, she was never provided any information on sexual harassment.
And the store’s general manager had laughed about it.
So the harassment continued. Until the day Johnson’s store manager grabbed her breasts.
“That day he did that, that was the day I said, ‘I’m fed up. I’m done. I can’t take it no more.’ I left work three hours before my shift was over. I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to be there any longer.”
Johnson shared her story on Sept. 18 at a demonstration outside the McDonald’s at 8660 St. Charles Rock Road in St. John in north St. Louis County as part of a series of #MeToo strikes against the fast food giant in 10 cities, organized by the Fight for $15.
FIRST #METOO ACTION AGAINST A SINGLE BUSINESS
The multi-state strike was the first in the U.S. specifically targeting a single business for sexual harassment. Organizers hope the demonstrations will pressure McDonald’s management to take stronger steps to prevent and deal with on-the-job sexual harassment.
The lunchtime action targeted multiple cities – but not every McDonald’s restaurant – in St. Louis; Chicago; Durham, N.C.; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; and San Francisco.
Demonstrators gathered outside the St. Louis location delivered a clear message, chanting “Hold the burgers, hold the fries, keep your hands off our thighs!”
Two years ago, organizers demanded McDonald’s end sexual harassment at its stores, but the company did little.
Now organizers are demanding a clear change to protect all McDonald’s employees. Their demands include:
• Zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace.
• Mandatory training for all workers and managers.
• A committee of workers and company reps to guarantee safe workplaces.
Johnson was joined at the demonstration by several co-workers, union members, community supporters and her mother.
“We want our kids to do something with their life, but how can you when my child is a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace?” Johnson’s mother, Latasha Chapple said. “They want to work, but they’re afraid.”
After she spoke, Johnson and several supporters drove to the Robert A. Young Federal Building in downtown St. Louis, where she filed an EEOC complaint for sexual harassment against McDonalds, joining the other 10 women who filed similar complaints in May, alleging pervasive harassment at some of McDonald’s franchise restaurants.
IF YOU NEED HELP
Fight for $15 has stood with fast-food workers in challenging the rampant sexual harassment faced by fast-food workers on the job. Together, Fight for $15 and partners have helped fast-food workers speak out, get legal relief, and engage in direct action to create a safer, harassment-free workplace for all employees.
If you’re a fast-food worker who has experienced sexual harassment on the job, dial the #MeToo McDonald’s hotline at 844-384-4495 to get help. Fight for $15 is partnering with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to provide legal information and support.