Chicago McDonald’s workers join nationwide protest against sexual harrassment

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Protesters carry a list of demands outside the McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago on Tuesday during the one-day walkout over sexual harassment. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

All Teresa Cervantes wanted was a shift change when she once walked into the management office of the McDonald’s where she worked.

But the female superior who greeted her went on to ask Cervantes if she had been hoping the male manager was there so she could have sex with him.

The exchange was “unimaginable and completely embarrassing,” 49-year-old Cervantes said Tuesday, standing in front of the fast food company’s West Loop headquarters with 100 others.

“The sexual harassment I’ve witnessed and experienced has been happening since the day I began working for McDonald’s over two decades ago,” Cervantes said in Spanish.

Cervantes and those in the crowd, led by Fight for $15 Chicago, joined other McDonald’s employees in a nationwide walkout Tuesday to protest workplace sexual harassment.

Fight for $15 is a national effort to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Tuesday’s job action follows the filing of sexual harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the fast-food franchise in May.

Protesters here marched down to the headquarters, 1045 W. Randolph, in silence, with tapes over their mouths that said “on strike” or “#MeToo.”

“Today fast-food workers, just like me, are breaking the silence,” Adriana Alvarez said to the crowd. “We’re taking this historic step and we’re going on strike to tell McDonald’s, ‘No more sexual harassment.’”

Alvarez, 26, said it is imperative that fast-food workers take action and use their voices in the same way to hold McDonald’s and other fast-food chains accountable.

“The public does not know what we go through, behind the counters, the cash registers, even in the bathrooms, the janitors’ closets,” Alvarez said. “But today the world will find out more.”

Ieshia Townsend, who works at a South Side McDonald’s, said  someone once rubbed up against her inappropriately at work, but management there swept it under the rug.

“Nothing was done,” Townsend, 32, said. “Nobody was at fault.”

After the press conference, the protesters marched the West Loop headquarters and placed the letter of demands to McDonald’s on the door.

Alvarez said that they’re going to “keep pushing until [McDonald’s does] something about this inappropriate behavior.”

McDonald’s, in a statement, said the company has strong policies, procedures and training specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment.

“To ensure we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response … to evolve our policies so everyone who works at McDonald’s does so in a secure environment every day,” McDonald’s said.

Chicago joined nine other cities in the strike: Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Orlando, New Orleans, San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo. and Durham, N.C.

A man watches from inside McDonald’s headquarters. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

A man watches from inside McDonald’s headquarters in the West Loop on Tuesday as protesters carry a list of demands during a one-day walkout over sexual harassment. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

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