Title Mine and WUGWU show support at McDonald’s #MeToo protest

| Senior News Editor

St. Louis McDonald’s employees rallied in a national protest inspired by the #MeToo movement Tuesday. Members of Title Mine and the Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) attended the protest in solidarity.

Hundreds of McDonald’s employees from ten cities across the U.S.— including Chicago, Durham, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando and San Francisco—participated in the protests.

Members of the Washington University Graduate Worker's Union march as part of a McDonald's employee #MeToo rally about workplace harassment and discrimination in St. LouisCourtesy of WUGWU

Members of the Washington University Graduate Worker’s Union march as part of a McDonald’s employee #MeToo rally about workplace harassment and discrimination in St. Louis

The protests arose due to the perceived lack of enforcement of the sexual harassment policy by the fast food chain. The movement began in May when 10 McDonald’s employees filed sexual harassment complaints against supervisors and co-workers with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In recent years, restaurant jobs have grown faster than health care, construction or manufacturing. The projected job growth rate for food and beverage servers is 14 percent from 2016 to 2026—double the average growth rate for all occupations.

With almost 3.8 million Americans working in fast food, the issue of sexual assault is one that affects many. The McDonald’s workers who went on strike are demanding policy change and better enforcement, the creation of an anti-sexual harassment committee and mandatory training for managers and employees.

The protests were organized by “Fight for $15,” a group affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is the same group that WUGWU tried to unionize with in the fall of 2017. WUGWU joined the protest yesterday to show that they support workers at every level, not just within the confines of the University.

“We feel strongly that it doesn’t matter where you work—whether it’s for a billion-dollar enterprise like McDonald’s or a billion-dollar academic institution like Wash. U.—having a good sexual harassment policy in place is crucial,” WUGWU member and Ph.D. student Lacy Murphy said.

As organizers of the Title Mine movement, junior Allie Lindstrom and sophomore Candace Hayes attended the rally to support sexual violence reform and policy reform.

“We decided to go to the St. Louis protest because it’s really important to recognize that the issues that Title Mine is focusing on campus—issues of sexual assault and harassment—happen both at billion-dollar education institutions and McDonald’s, these huge corporate institutions,” Lindstrom said. “We showed up in solidarity.”

“I feel like it’s important to support all movements [involved with] the prevention of sexual assault,” Hayes said. “It shouldn’t just be an on-campus initiative but [rather] an off-campus and a nation-wide initiative. Also, I felt like I had an obligation to support this initiative off-campus, and I was so proud that I got to be a part of that.”

In addition, Murphy felt that it was important to highlight the role of unions in advocating for sexual harassment policy.

“We feel that demonstrating yesterday alongside fellow workers was important for us because it allowed us to not only show solidarity with that cause but to raise awareness for the need of unionization,” Murphy said. “Sexual harassment is just one reason why we need a union. We need to have that oversight so that when policies are insufficient, workers are organized and have power and can call for action and reform.”

According to Lindstrom, the McDonald’s protest reminded her of the Title Mine rally, which took place last April.

“The protest was actually eerily similar to the Title Mine protest in structure, in what the chants were talking about and how they had survivors speaking about their experiences and having calls to action, which goes to show just how prevalent these issues are,” Lindstrom said. “It was overwhelming but really important to be there and hear that.”

The protests were another reminder that there is still work to be done at Washington University, according to Murphy.

“Sexual harassment is also rampant at the university-level and in academia,” Murphy said. “We were taking part in this protest with McDonald’s workers to not only show our solidarity for them and their specific case in dealing with sexual harassment at McDonald’s, but also to illustrate that our union is ready to take action at Wash. U.”

Title Mine is currently working on improving the University’s Title IX policy updates, which occupies most of their efforts and focus. However, both Lindstrom and Hayes believe that they will continue to support outside efforts to prevent sexual assault, acknowledging the scope of the issue.

“As things come up in St. Louis, we will go in solidarity,” Lindstrom said. “We have to keep working on this together and not just stay on campus.”

“Even if we’re not actively organizing, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still support those initiatives,” Hayes said. “Anyone fighting for sexual assault prevention is an ally of ours.”

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