McDonald's Workers Go On Strike After Colleague Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Workers at a McDonald's in California went on strike after finding out a coworker had coronavirus, saying the company had not informed them about it or provided them with masks and other protective gear.

Employees walked out of the restaurant at 2838 Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday, Fox11 reported.

Bartolome Perez, who works as a cook at that McDonald's location, told City News Service that he and his coworkers found out a female coworker had tested positive for coronavirus last week.

But Perez said McDonald's didn't inform employees that the woman was off sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. They found out from a coworker, he said, but they still don't know who it is, so can't be sure how much contact they had with the infected coworker.

He added that McDonald's employees started asking the company for protective equipment such as masks to help keep them safe more than a month ago. At the moment, they are only provided with gloves, which he said McDonald's is required to give workers.

"We've been pleading for protective equipment for more than a month now, but McDonald's is putting its profits ahead of our health," Perez told City News Service. "We don't want to die for McDonald's burgers and fries."

A man steps out of a McDonalds restaurant with sign announcing take-out service only in Hollywood, California on March 16, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Perez added that he and his coworkers want to be able to quarantine for two weeks with full pay and are demanding McDonald's cover healthcare expenses for any worker or family member of a worker who tests positive for COVID-19. McDonald's had not provided tests for workers who came into contact with the infected woman, he said.

But hours have been cut back for workers and only 10 to 15 employees work each shift due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a stay-at-home order and restricted restaurants and bars to serving takeout and delivery only.

Perez said he and his coworkers are on strike until they are provided with what they need to protect themselves—but he's not sure how he and his coworkers will cope without an income if it carries on for too long.

"I haven't really thought about money at this point," he said. "I just want me and my family to be safe." Perez has been contacted for additional comment.

Nicole Enearu, a McDonald's owner and operator, told Newsweek that the Crenshaw Boulevard restaurant was closed for cleaning after the employee tested positive for coronavirus. She said the company was committed to paying that employee and any others who need to quarantine.

"Our highest priority is to protect the health and well-being of our people. We recently learned that an employee at our restaurant on Crenshaw Blvd. has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently under medical care," she said.

"We have been in contact with the employee and are providing support during this time. We are committed to paying both the infected employee and the other employees who need to quarantine.

"As soon as we were notified of the confirmed case, we immediately closed the restaurant to conduct a thorough sanitization procedure, as well as notified local public health authorities."

Enearu added that the company had reached out to all staff who were "in close contact" with the infected employee. "These employees have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure they remain healthy before returning to work," she said.

She also said that an "ample supply" of gloves are available to employees and "frequent hand washing" is encouraged, but did not address questions about whether masks or other protective equipment would become available.

"We are also taking additional precautions by doing wellness checks with our employees before each shift to ensure they are feeling their best. Employees who are not feeling well are asked to stay home," she said. "Our people are the heart and soul of the McDonald's family. We are keeping this employee in our thoughts for a fast and full recovery."

The Fight for $15 campaign has said that McDonald's cooks and cashiers are calling for the company to implement a series of "common sense policies" to help them cope with the pandemic—including paid sick leave and medical care if they or any family members show signs of COVID-19 and increased safety protocol.

The company has issued a number of statements regarding the health of workers and customers and the safety precautions the company is taking due to the pandemic.

McDonald's said employees at company-owned restaurants who are impacted by the virus will receive two weeks of paid leave. The company also said that "a large number" of franchise locations will offer paid sick leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

In a statement last week, McDonald's USA President Joe Erlinger said the company was implementing additional procedures in partnership with franchise locations, including daily wellness checks for employees including plans to make thermometers available to all restaurants, sending non-medical grade masks "to the areas of greatest need" and installing protective barriers and social distancing decals within some restaurants to further minimize contact.

There have been nearly 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles and more than 130 deaths. The number of confirmed cases of the disease across the U.S. now stands at over 337,000, with 9,648 deaths. More than 17,500 people across the country have recovered from the virus.

This article has been updated with comments from a McDonald's spokesperson.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.