McDonald’s and other fast-food employees are constantly subjected to workplace violence, according to new report.
For workers at one Chicago McDonald’s restaurant, life behind the counter can sometimes be downright life-threatening with reports of customers with guns, fist fights, and physical attacks on employees. Labor advocates have found that these events occur with regularity food chain’s restaurants at many different locations, and also include actual shootings, sexual assaults, and armed robberies.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) filed a report last week stating employees at a McDonald’s on the south side of Chicago have witnessed 31 violent incidents over six months during the past year, including physical and customers attacking workers over missing French fries.
“McDonald’s management should be really training us on how to deal with violent incidents, especially the cashiers who work face to face with the customers,” Martina Ortega, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago involved in the complaint. “We should be able to know where we need to run or what to do.”
The Chicago workers, who worked with the union-based Fight for $15 campaign to file the OSHA complaint, said in their letter that “employees placed dozens of 911 calls from the restaurant since November” but that their manager urged them to stop their efforts before it gets shut down. Now they want OSHA to investigate McDonald’s handling of what they contend is “systemic” violence at its U.S. locations. A manager also “encouraged employees to throw hot oil or coffee at volatile customers to protect themselves,” according to the complaint.
The complaint cited numbers from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a worker rights group that tallied 721 news accounts of violence at McDonald’s stores over the last three years, with guns involved 72% of the time. The police department in St. Louis also listed 67 violence incidents at McDonald’s in the city during the last three years. In Chicago, more than 21 calls are made on an average day to emergency services from McDonald’s stores in the city. One Chicago McDonald’s was the had 1,356 calls to 911 in the last three years.
“Interviews with workers suggest that McDonald’s is not sufficiently training staff or equipping its stores consistently with violence hazard controls, such as cash handling procedures, necessary visibility, panic buttons accessible to all staff, and safe drive-thru windows to prevent violence or at least minimize the number and severity of such incidents,” NELP’s report stated.
Asked about the complaint and NELP’s findings, McDonald’s said it would “roll out national training safety initiatives at its corporate-owned U.S. stores this year.” Ninety-five percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned. This apparently makes every location more difficult to police. However, for a company that has a reputation for menu consistency across all of its locations spanning different countries around the world, it shouldn’t be all that difficult. New policies are needed.
McDonald’s submitted a statement saying: “We believe every person working in McDonald’s restaurants deserves to do so in a safe and respectful environment and, along with our franchisees, have invested in programs that promote safe environments for customers and crew members. This includes clear policies that strictly prohibit violence, threats of violence and other conduct that jeopardizes or harms the safety of employees and others in the workplace and during work-related activities.”