Representing a new front in the struggle of low-wage workers in the fast-food industry, workers at a McDonald’s in New York City and a Dunkin' Donuts in Chicago walked off the job on July 19 to protest dangerously hot working conditions.
The strike in Manhattan began when McDonald’s employee Esheliz Méndez, following multiple complaints, began feeling ill and vomiting from the over 105-degree temperature inside the non-air conditioned restaurant. The workers had already been dealing with such conditions for days, but after many complaints the management did nothing to relieve the intolerable heat.
Ordered to go back to work by her manager, Méndez then collapsed and passed out, and was taken away by ambulance. After that, four other workers, including Luisa Dilla, who also had been feeling ill from the heat, said, “enough is enough,” and walked off the job.
Jamne Izquierdo, one of the striking workers, said: "In the middle of a heat wave like this, to be expected to stand in a hot kitchen with no air conditioning is inhumane and unsafe. We are human beings. We've told McDonalds before that the air conditioning doesn't work and that we can't take the heat but they don't listen to us. We can't take it anymore. No one should have to work like this." (In These Times, July 19)
The same day at a Chicago Dunkin' Donuts, workers also walked off the job complaining of abhorrent working conditions, including broken air conditioning units. They protested near their workplace by Lake and State Street. Along with humane work conditions, the workers are demanding wages of $15 an hour.
In the last 20 years, 563 working people have died and another 46,000 have been injured due to overheated work places. Despite this fact, no rule exists under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that protects workers from heat stroke.
Corporations like McDonald’s and Dunkin' Donuts make billions of dollars every year by paying their employees starvation wages and forcing them to work in dangerous conditions. The workers at McDonald’s and Dunkin' Donuts are struggling to improve conditions and wages for themselves and to pave the way to organization for all service industry workers.
All improvements of working conditions for employees have been won through struggle, and it is through struggle that we must protect and extend those gains and fight for a system that protects the interests of the working class from the plunderers on Wall Street.