McDonald’s employees stage walkout after learning coworker tested positive for coronavirus

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Workers at a Crenshaw District McDonald’s staged a walkout Sunday after learning a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19, and they say the company has not provided the necessary equipment to keep them safe, a worker said.

The strike happened at the McDonald’s restaurant at 2838 Crenshaw Blvd. at 9:30 a.m. as a response of workers learning that a female co-worker tested positive for the virus this past week, Bartoleme Perez, a 30-year cook at McDonald’s told City News Service.

“We don’t yet know exactly who tested positive,” Perez told CNS. “One of our other co-workers let people know that a female worker had tested positive for the virus Monday or Tuesday.”

Perez said workers want equipment such as masks to help keep workers safe. Workers already get gloves, he said, because McDonald’s is required to give workers gloves.

Workers also want to know why the company did not inform the other workers about their sick co-worker, Perez said.

“We’ve been pleading for protective equipment for more than a month now, but McDonald’s is putting its profits ahead of out health,” Perez said. “We don’t want to die for McDonald’s burgers and fries.”

Perez told CNS that workers want a two-week quarantine with full pay because of the co-worker who tested positive for coronavirus. Workers are also demanding that McDonald’s cover healthcare costs for any worker or worker’s family member who tests positive.

He said McDonald’s has not provided testing for the other workers who came into contact with the infected woman, adding that hours have been reduced, as have staff because of the virus, and each shift is only employing 10 to 15 people.

Workers are in the process of filing a complaint with California’s OSHA because of the infected co-worker and lack of safety equipment.

Perez also said he’s heard that three other workers have been quarantined, but doesn’t know if that number is accurate or if the workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Workers are committed to stay out until it’s safe for them to come back and get equipment they need to protect themselves, he said.

He said he doesn’t exactly know what workers will do about money as the strike drags on.

“We need security before we come back to work,” Perez said. “I haven’t really thought about the money at this point. I just want me and my family to be safe.”

Perez said workers also intend to reach out to L.A.’s mayor and other elected officials for help with their plight.

Sunday’s walkout is the latest in a list of locations where workers have walked off the job because they don’t feel they have protection against the virus and are demanding hazard and sick pay. Those other locations include: Memphis, Tennessee; Miami, Tampa and Orlando, Florida; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; St. Louis, Missouri; and San Jose.

In response to the initial CNS story earlier on Sunday, McDonald’s Field Brand Reputation Manager Michael Vizza gave CNS a statement from franchise owner/operator of the Crenshaw restaurant, Nicole Enearu, in which she addressed the infected employee at her eatery and the actions she says her restaurant took as a result.

“Our highest priority is to protect the health and well being of our people,” Enearu said. “We recently learned that an employee at our restaurant on Crenshaw Boulevard has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently under medical care.

“As soon as we were notified of the confirmed case, we immediately closed the restaurant to conduct a thorough sanitization procedure, as well as notified local public health authorities. Additionally, we identified and reached out to all restaurant staff who had been in close contact with the employee who contracted the virus. These employees have been asked to self quarantine for 14 days to ensure they remain healthy before returning to work.

“We have been in contact with the employee and are providing support during this time. We are committed to paying both the infected employee and the other employees who need to quarantine. Additionally, we have made an ample supply of gloves available to our employees and encourage frequent hand washing in the restaurant. We are also taking additional precautions by doing wellness checks with our employees before each shift to ensure they are feeling their best. Employees who are not feeling well are asked to stay home,” Enearu said.

The statement did not address workers’ requests for masks or the number of employees self-quarantining, and contradicted employee allegations that they were not immediately notified about the infected employee.

McDonald’s Corp. has also put out a number of official statements regarding the virus and the safety of its workers and customers.

“Employees at our company-owned restaurants who are impacted by the virus are receiving two weeks paid leave to tend to their critical health needs. In addition, employees at a large percentage of franchised restaurants will receive emergency paid leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” said McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger.

“During these difficult economic times, we are also vigilant in our role as an employer. We have been working tirelessly in this crisis to continue to serve our communities so we can provide the jobs our employees need.

“As reported by the National Restaurant Association this week, the restaurant industry stands to lose 5 to 7 million jobs as a result of the coronavirus. Combined with our franchisees, McDonald’s provides approximately 850,000 jobs in the U.S. and pays billions in payroll every year.

“That’s why we have been working to ensure our franchisees, many of whom are small-business owners, have the economic support they need so they aren’t forced to close their doors. If they can stay open, they are able to give their employees job security and peace of mind in a safe environment,” Erlinger said.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski put out a video message outlining five principles that McDonald’s is following in dealing with the pandemic. These include:

  • We’re all in this together. We’ve got each others’ backs because that’s what makes us so strong.
  • Think and act with a long-term mindset. One day, we will be on the other side of this. Life will normalize again. Communities will be back to normal. And that’s where we need to keep our focus. The decisions we do or don’t make in the coming weeks will reverberate for years.
  • Be transparent with each other and our stakeholders.
  • If any one of us has a problem, we all have a problem. The system can count on McDonald’s leaders to tell it like it is.
  • Lead by example. McDonald’s will lead, “we always do” with our customers and people in mind. We will never ask customers or our people to go where we wouldn’t go, or work where we wouldn’t work.
  • Stay true to our purpose. Fostering community is the most powerful thing we do. Our system has almost 40,000 community touchpoints. These are spaces where we feed and foster the community we serve.

Perez and the other workers say they are waiting for McDonald’s to back up that talk when it comes to their employee safety.

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