PALMDALE – Cooks and cashiers at a McDonald’s in Palmdale held a lunchtime demonstration Wednesday to protest the burger giant’s alleged failure to address numerous safety concerns, including a broken ventilation fan for the nugget fryer that allegedly causes the kitchen to fill with hazardous smoke.
“Smoke from the nugget fryer has been filling the kitchen since before Thanksgiving, making my eyes red and giving me a cough, a sore throat and a headache,” according to Rosa Garcia, who has worked at the Palmdale McDonald’s for more than a decade. “The assistant store manager screams at us to get the food out faster, threatening us with retaliation in order to intimidate us. The real problem is that we do not have enough staff and the equipment we need to get the food out is broken, and these are safety hazards that must be fixed.”
Holding various protest signs, the group gathered around noon on Wednesday, Jan. 5, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s restaurant, located on the 37000 of 47th Street East in Palmdale.
In a formal complaint filed Dec. 21, 2021, with Cal/OSHA and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the workers noted that the ventilation fan has been broken for four weeks, causing them to experience symptoms such as headaches, coughing and sore throats. They also laid out a longstanding pattern of broken equipment in the store, including the AC unit, which breaks down in dangerous heat. The group also raised the alarm about unsafe staffing levels at the store, which they said leads to excess fatigue and exhaustion among the workers. [Read the OSHA complaint here.]
According to “Fight for $15 California” — the organization that local employees have designated to represent them in all contacts with CalOSHA — California fast-food workers are demanding that state lawmakers pass AB 257, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery Act. The legislation would give workers a voice on the job to help set industry-wide standards for health and safety and hold fast-food corporations like McDonald’s accountable for maintaining safe and healthy workplaces.
According to “Fight for $15 California,” AB 257 would also address sexual harassment, wage theft, safety violations, violence and other long-standing issues in the fast-food industry by:
- Giving workers a seat at the table. The bill would create a statewide Fast-Food Sector Council, which would include worker, government and industry representatives, to set minimum health, safety and employment standards across the California fast food industry.
- Giving franchisees a seat at the table. Under the FAST Recovery Act, franchisees get a seat at the table too. Oftentimes, large franchisors increase California operators’ costs. With AB 257, franchisees can push back if resources are needed to comply with wage and safety standards.
- Holding large fast-food corporations accountable. Corporate fast-food giants like McDonald’s will be required to ensure all their restaurants and franchisees have the resources they need to operate safely and in compliance with the law.
Management at the Palmdale McDonald’s did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday’s worker protest.