Advertisement
  1. Business

In aftermath of viral McDonald's fight, workers plan strike to demand training, protection from violence

McDonald's says it has hired an external investigator to look into New Years Eve assault on employees ahead of planned protest on Tuesday.
Published Jan. 8

Laura Rollins won't work the drive-thru.

"Those girls get the worst of it," said the 66-year-old, who has worked at 10 different McDonald's over 25 years.

The name-calling and sexual comments — she's seen women working the drive-thru deal with the worst customers. She's seen sodas splashed into cashiers' faces, and spit hurled at workers in response to mistaken orders. Two years ago, she said a man jumped over the counter to grab a manager. When Rollins saw the viral video taken last week inside a St. Petersburg McDonald's showing a 40-year-old man grab a young cashier by the collar and yank her across the counter, she said it was distressing. It was also familiar.

That's why she stays behind the grill.

But on Tuesday, she's leaving her home in Fort Lauderdale to make her voice heard in St. Petersburg, where dozens of fast-food workers are expected to gather outside the McDonald's that employs 20-year-old Yasmine James, the cashier in the video who fended off her attacker with swift punches as he gripped her uniform. Workers say they're leaving their posts behind grills, drive-thrus and cash registers at 11 a.m. in a strike to demand the chain and others like it provide training for employees and managers on how to handle violence in the workplace.

"Take the abuse, the disrespect, the harassment, all that stuff," said Rollins. "My father always said bite your tongue, bite your jowls, suck it in. Do what you got to do to provide for your family."

The video taken of James and customer Daniel Willis Taylor, 40, inside the McDonald's at 4595 34th St. S on New Year's Eve has been seen by millions. Taylor was agitated after he found no straws in the restaurant's lobby — part of St. Petersburg's new plastic straw ban. After the fight began, several seconds passed before another employee stepped in to help. Through her attorney, James said that black women are too often left to fight for themselves.

Taylor, who is accused of kicking another employee off camera, was arrested on assault charges.

Related coverage: Viral McDonald's fight shows that when customers attack, workers don't have many rights

In a statement released Monday, McDonald's spokesman Khim Aday said the company is in the process of offering employees counseling through an employee assistance program. Aday also said McDonald's has hired an external investigator to look into the assault and is "reviewing how we respond to such incidents going forward."

"We will always stand with our people and remain committed to their safety and well-being," he said.

Organizers of the protest, who are with wage activist group Fight for $15, say they want McDonald's to "establish store security protocols, and provide protection and a voice on the job for its predominantly Black and Latinx women workforce," according to a news release.

"It's very clear I'm not safe at McDonald's," Gail Rogers, a Tampa McDonald's worker, said in a statement released by organizers. "I'm going on strike because at McDonald's, we're subjected to all types of behavior that has no place at work — from physical attacks and armed robberies, to sexual harassment, to racial discrimination."

A 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates found 40 percent of females working in fast food face unwanted sexual behavior or comments. The same group published a survey a year before showing 87 percent of fast-food workers suffered an on-the-job injury.

Rollins has grandchildren. She worries about them looking for their first jobs. What if it's McDonald's, Taco Bell?

"I want it to be different for them," she said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.
  2. An administrative judge said a Pasco County ordinance allowing solar farms in agricultural districts did not violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan. Times
    An ordinance did not violate the county’s land-use plan that is supposed to protect rural Northeast Pasco, a judge said.
  3. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  4. For sale sign on a  Tampa Bay home. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
    It pays to shop around for the lowest rate, new study shows.
  5. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  6. This Jan. 31, 2017 photo shows the entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha cited a “difference of approach.”
  7. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
  8. TECO Peoples Gas ranked highest among its peers in the South for J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Pictured is the company's headquarters in Tampa in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times (2017)] URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It ranked as the top utility for customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the south.
  9. How do I pay back $80K in student loans on a $42K salary? GRADYREESE  |  Getty Images
    Pace yourself. There’s a lot to balance.
  10. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
    News and notes on local businesses
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement