Employees at a McDonald’s in Manhattan went on strike over the weekend after a worker fainted because of extreme work conditions and with managerial indifference to that fact. This occurrence adds to the maelstrom of worker strikes and criticisms from workers’ rights advocates against McDonald’s for mistreating its workers.
The air conditioning system at the McDonald’s failed on July 20 and temperatures inside the kitchen spiked over 110 degrees, causing a worker to vomit and faint. The worker later had to be ambulanced to the hospital because of apparent heat exhaustion and fatigue. After the employee, Luisa Dilla, 26, got sick and went to the bathroom to vomit, the manager, showing no apparent compassion, overlooked the condition of Dilla and wanted to send her back to work.
“She was laying down on some chairs and vomiting and then she fell and fainted,” noted one of Dilla’s coworkers. “Her eyes were rolling back… That’s when we said enough is enough.”
Outside factors also created a higher risk for heat-related injuries. That day, the National Weather Service issued an advisory, indicating an “Excessive Heat Warning,” that alerted people to the risk of temperatures that could “feel like it is 105 degrees or greater.”
New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez strongly spoke out against McDonald’s lack of compassion and concern for its employees. “This is a crime to have their workers doing their job, . . . with the temperature more than 110 degrees,” said Rodriguez. “They brought that condition to the manager, they [management] did not respond.”
Prior to this incident, dissent among McDonald’s workers has manifested in a few different forms. Each instance had commonality in that the dissent was driven by wage theft.
Last month, a Pennsylvania woman filed a suit against McDonald’s because the store she worked for paid its employees with prepaid debit cards. The problem with the cards is that the payment method, provided by JPMorgan Chase, imposed hidden fees (high withdraw fees, balance inquiry fees, charged for lost/stolen cards) on the card carriers, essentially making the employees pay for the money that they have already earned.
“I need to receive all the money I earn,” said plaintiff Natalie Gunshannon. “I just think people should be paid fairly and not have to pay fees to get their wages.”
In the latter part of 2012 and going into the beginning of this year, McDonald’s workers went on strike in Chicago, St. Louis, and other cities to protest the unlivable wages that McDonald’s pays its employees. Nearly all McDonald’s in-restaurant staff make right at or barely above minimum wage, which isn’t a viable amount of income in expensive cities. The Fight for 15 campaign, under which the workers protested, called for a $15 per hour pay rate so as to ensure a livable wage for fast-food employees. Rather than consider a pay increase, the company offered a “budgeting plan” to its employees, which many of them saw as an insult.
There’s a certain backwardness that McDonald’s has when it comes to employee treatment and personnel management. The corporate representatives of the company make it a point to say that they care about their employees and they always strive to make McDonald’s a good place to work. The dissent of its workers and the consistent mishandlings by the company clearly indicate otherwise.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.