McDonald’s is facing accusations of “systematic sexual harassment” of its employees across the globe.
The complaint, filed by an international coalition of labour unions, comes after accusations made by thousands of women working at McDonald’s, across several countries, over the last few months.
It lists numerous incidents of harassment, occurring from France to Brazil to the United States.
Women have reported incidents of groping, offers of promotions in exchange for sexual favours, hidden cameras installed in their changing rooms, cat-calling, indecent exposure, and attempted rape.
The Issue Highlights A McDonaldization Of McDonalds
George Ritzer, in his book “The McDonaldization of Society” infamously talked about how our society is adopting the traits of a fast-food restaurant – it has become “McDonaldized”. These traits include prioritising efficiency, quantity over quality, standardization, and a shift to non-human methods of control. The result is a homogenised, “rational” culture across the globe, with consequences that are, in fact, very irrational and harmful.
McDonald’s seems to have adopted and extended this model, beyond just its assembly line.
It is the first-ever multinational to have a sexual harassment case filed against it.
The volume and global nature of the complaints expose a problematic culture that has been allowed by McDonald’s. It highlights an inhuman approach to its work – a lack of policies that safeguard women’s safety and ensure a healthy work environment.
They seem to be prioritising output over ethics, employees’ work over their safety, and the assembly line over the humans working it.
The Problem Starts From The Top Ranks
Sue Longley, general secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers, says that McDonald’s has “failed dismally to take meaningful action about the problem” and that “there’s a rotten culture from the top”.
Jamelia Fairley filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant in April, for being groped by a male co-worker, and subjected to sexually aggressive and inappropriate comments by another.
When she reported their behaviour to management, no action was taken, but soon there was a drastic cut in her hours.
The union has filed the complaint in Netherlands, claiming that any complaint filed in the United States – where the McDonald’s headquarter is located – will be handled with “unclean hands”. The sexual harassment in McDonalds, according to the union, “permeates the top ranks of corporate management”.
The complaint does not seek any monetary action. The aim and hope is to force McDonald’s to re-evaluate its handling of the issue, and together come up with a plan to combat it at their restaurants around the world.
The Widespread Issue Highlights The Importance Of Speaking Up
McDonald’s has responded to the complaint by accepting that the company and its partners “have a responsibility to take action on this issue and are committed to promoting positive change”.
An issue as far-reaching and relevant as this one, would have remained buried under shame and organisational inaction, if these brave women hadn’t spoken up and called the company out. Instead, their collective voices led to a coalition of unions filing a complaint that forced McDonald’s to finally take heed.
Speak up for what is rightfully yours. Don’t be dismissive of other women when they claim they were wronged.
Most importantly, speak up for what is right. Your voice could be the one thing that gives someone else the courage to step out of silence.
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