While on the job, a McDonald worker gets burned and now has filed 28 health and safety complaints against the company. The worker claims that McDonald forces them to work fast.
The lawsuits, filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, were announced in a press conference Monday morning by “Fight for $15,” a group spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union. The group has previously helped organize fast-food industry worker strikes and with these injury complaints is attempting to expand its reach, broaden its message and, perhaps, bring McDonald’s to the bargaining table.
The complaints allege that understaffing and pressure to work too fast are the drivers behind the worker injuries. They also allege that many McDonald’s restaurants lack basic first-aid or protective gear necessary to ensure workers’ safety. Some of the complaints claim that McDonald’s managers tell workers to treat burns with condiments like mustard or mayonnaise rather than burn cream.
“My managers kept pushing me to work faster, and while trying to meet their demands I slipped on a wet floor, catching my arm on a hot grill,” said Brittney Berry, in a statement, who has worked at a McDonald’s in Chicago since 2011. She claims to have suffered a severe burn on her forearm and nerve damage from the accident. “The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.”
McDonald’s, in a statement, said it will review the allegations — but noted that an activist group is behind them.
“McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants. We will review these allegations. It is important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage,” says Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, in a statement.
The complaints, which were filed at both corporate and franchised McDonald’s locations, allege a range of workplace dangers, including pressure to clean and filter the fryer while the oil is still hot; lack of proper protective equipment; floors that are greasy or wet; and missing or empty first-aid kits.
About 79% of fast-food workers in the U.S. have been burned on the job over the past year, many repeatedly, according to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and released Monday by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. The survey also found that 36% of workers report that first-aid kits are missing, inaccessible or empty; and one third of fast-food workers surveyed say they were told to treat burns with condiments like mustard or mayonnaise.
For McDonald’s, it’s yet another test for a company undergoing change at all levels. McDonald’s recently named a new CEO even as the chain is attempting to simplify its menu and revamp its marketing message. Pressure to increase wages for its restaurant workers also rose a notch last month after Walmart announced that 500,000 of its workers would start making at least $9 an hour beginning in April — at least $1.75 more than the minimum hourly wage of $7.25. By February 2016, hourly employees will make at least $10 an hour after completing about six months of training, Walmart said.