Among issues cited in 28 health and safety complaints filed against fast-food giant are understaffing and pressure to work fast without proper safety gear
McDonalds workers who have suffered severe burns in their workplace filed 28 health and safety complaints against the company in 19 cities over the past two weeks, a labor group announced on Monday.
The complaints, which were filed with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as state safety and health authorities, allege that many of the injuries occurred because of understaffing and the pressure to work fast. After such accidents occurred, management often lacked first-aid supplies to treat the injuries and instead often told the workers to treat their burns with condiments.
McDonalds said in a statement that it is committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonalds Brand US restaurants and will review the allegations. A McDonalds spokeswoman, Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, said: 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.
The complaints were filed with the assistance of labor organizing group Fight for $15, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage and union representation for fast-food workers. On Monday, Fight for $15 also launched a petition asking the US Department of Labor to investigate health and safety hazards in the fast-food industry.
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, Brittney Berry said on a conference call on Monday. Berry has worked at McDonalds in Chicago since 2011; when she slipped, she 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.
Afterward, Berry missed three weeks of work without pay.
Using condiments to soothe workplace burns is more than just a one-time occurrence at McDonalds. According to a survey by Hart Research Associates, 33% of fast-food workers who were burned at work were told by their manager to use condiments such mustard, butter or ketchup instead of burn cream.
Martisse Campbell works at McDonalds in Philadelphia and is often tasked with emptying the grease traps at his store.
One of my coworkers and I have to empty the grease trap without protective gear, and since we were never given the proper equipment or training, we just dump the hot grease into a plastic bag in a box of ice, said Campbell. Once, my coworker got badly burned, and our manager told him: Put mayonnaise on it, youll be good.
Campbell too has burned his hand with boiling grease from a fryer. Both he and Berry say that accidents such as these are exactly why workers at McDonalds need union rights.
McDonalds closely monitors all aspects of its franchisees operations, but when it comes to health and safety, it looks the other way with a wink and a nod, alleges Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fight for $15. McDonalds has the power to protect its employees, but its just not doing it, said Fells.
Copies of the complaints revealed that in each of the complaints, workers had requested inspections of their worksite. Findings of the investigations triggered by such complaints are usually released within six months.
The workers say that they want the fast-food giant to take responsibility for the dangers in its restaurants, from the pressure to clean the fryer while the oil is hot and the lack of protective gear, to basics like greasy and wet floors and missing or empty first-aid kits.
Our first-aid kit is just an empty box, Campbell said on Monday.
Four in five fast-food workers have been burned on the job in the past year, according to a Heart Research survey of 1,426 adults working at a variety of fast-food restaurants. The survey was conducted online, on platforms such as Facebook, and those who participated were then eligible to win a gift card.
About 58% of the surveyed workers have been burned multiple times; reasons why such accidents occur include understaffing and the pressure to work faster than is safe, according to the workers surveyed.
On Tuesday, fast-food workers plan to hold protests at McDonalds stores to demand that the company take responsibility for these dangers. The 19 cities where complaints have been filed include Kansas City, Missouri; New York City; New Orleans and Philadelphia.
About 90% of US McDonalds restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees, according to McDonalds. Workers filed complaints at both corporate and franchised locations reporting the same health and safety hazards.