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McDonald's workers go on strike over sexual harassment

Now in the midst of the #MeToo movement, McDonald’s workers who have faced sexual harassment and their supporters went on strike Tuesday in 10 cities.
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Breauna Morrow, a 15-year-old cashier at a McDonald's in St. Louis, said an older male employee once made a graphic, sexual proposition toward her.

"You have a nice body; have you ever had white chocolate inside you?” the co-worker told Morrow, according to a statement from the National Women’s Law Center.

When Morrow reported the incident to a manager, she was allegedly told “you will never win that battle.”

Now in the midst of the #MeToo movement, McDonald’s workers who say they have faced sexual harassment in the workplace and their supporters went on strike Tuesday afternoon in 10 cities across the U.S. to draw attention to the issue and call on the company to do more to prevent it.

In Chicago, protesters gathered outside the McDonald's headquarters chanting, "We're here, we're loud, sexual harassment is not allowed," and "respect us, accept us, don’t try to touch us."

Some held a banner emblazoned with "#MeToo McDonald’s" and others had tape with #MeToo written on it covering their mouths.

"Today, fast-food workers just like me are breaking the silence, we're taking the historic step and we're going on strike to tell McDonald's no more sexual harassment," McDonald's worker Adriana Alvarez said at the protest. "We're not going to tolerate or continue to stay silent anymore."

In St. Louis, protesters chanted, "Hold the burgers, hold the fries, keep your hands off my thighs," and in Kansas City, demonstrators chanted "Times up!" and "Women! Power!"

Later Tuesday, demonstrators took over a McDonald’s in south Los Angeles, chanting “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it now? Now!” in English and Spanish.

The striking workers are demanding that McDonald's form a committee made up of workers, representatives from corporate and franchise stores, and leaders of national women's groups to address sexual harassment, according to a statement by the group Equal Rights Advocates, which is providing legal support for and sponsoring the strike.

"This committee would chart a path forward to make sure nobody who works for McDonald’s faces sexual harassment on the job," the statement said.

Organizers told The Associated Press that the strike would target restaurants in Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis.

In May, 10 McDonald’s employees, including Morrow, filed sexual harassment charges against the company with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The charges detail claims of on-the-job sexual harassment and instances of managers ignoring such claims or women facing retaliation after reporting them, according to the statement from the National Women’s Law Center.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which was started in January by the National Women's Law Center, helped the employees pay their legal fees.

“McDonald’s advertises all over television saying it’s ‘America’s best first job,’ but my experience has been a nightmare,” Morrow said in a statement released by the Fight for 15 group, which aims to increase the nationwide minimum wage to $15 and is supporting the McDonald’s strike.

"I know I’m not the only one and that’s why I’m speaking out, so others don’t have to face the harassment I’ve gone through,” she said.

In another allegation, a Chicago worker said her manager asked her if she wanted to see his penis and made a sexually inappropriate comment toward her. When she reported the incident, she was fired, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

McDonald’s did not immediately reply to request for comment on the strike but defended its anti-harassment efforts in a statement to the AP.

“We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment,” the company said.

The company also disclosed a new initiative to engage outside experts to work with the company to help it “evolve” those policies.

A 2016 online survey found that 40 percent of female fast-food employees have experienced unwanted sexual behavior on the job, including 28 percent who had experienced multiple forms of harassment.