When the #MeToo movement first took hold last fall, it was really one of the first organized movements (opens in new tab) to go after the men in Hollywood who harassed, preyed on, and ruined the careers of women in their same industries. However, one question that was asked repeatedly at the beginning of the movement still echoes a year later: Will the lessons of #MeToo actually impact the everyday lives of women outside of entertainment?
Of course, those stories are valid and important: We owe much to the women in media who rose up in solidarity to end systemic exploitation (opens in new tab) and call attention to just how common it is. But what of the women working in agriculture, in retail, in service? Surely the same issues of harassment and power imbalance affected them, but would they ever have the platform necessary to challenge the status quo?
These women were addressed directly with the announcement of #TimesUp, which created a legal defense fund for women not just in entertainment, but in farmwork, tech, finance, and anywhere else where women may feel threatened or exploited in the workplace. Now, there's been another important break for women everywhere: Workers at McDonald’s in 11 cities around the U.S. have announced a one-day labor strike to protest sexual harassment at the fast food chain.
In what’s being called by organizers, according to The Guardian, “the first multi-state strike in the U.S. specifically targeting sexual harassment,” the event is just one step in a large push (opens in new tab) by employees to demand better working conditions, including a $15-an-hour wage (many of the company's tens of thousands of workers are paid a far lower minimum wage). The walkout will begin at lunchtime on September 18.
The strike was planned by what the AP calls “women’s committees,” including women who had filed complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year. According to that article, organizers could not predict exactly how many people would participate in the walkout and that not every McDonald’s restaurant in the 11 cities—among them Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, and San Francisco—would be affected.
For their part, McDonald’s emailed a statement to the AP that touted the “policies, procedures, and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment” at the company level, noting that it believes franchisees felt the same way.
The workers participating in the strike will demand improved procedures for combatting workplace sexual harassment, as well as the formation of a committee to address the issue, which should include “workers, representatives from corporate and franchise stores, and leaders of national women’s groups.”
This could have huge repercussions for women everywhere, and some easy ways to support worker action are: Honk your horn in support of if you pass a picket line; take to social media to amplify your support for the cause; and always avoid crossing the picket line if possible. Some more information about how you can support strikes can be found here.
No matter how the company responds to workers’ demands, one thing is certain: This may be the first, but it won’t be the last direct action we see inspired by #MeToo.
Cady Drell is a writer, editor, researcher and pet enthusiast from Brooklyn.
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