CHICAGO–As the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women approaches, organizations across the world will soon advocate for all forms of violence against women to come to a halt. The global awareness day is Tuesday, Nov. 25th, but a local Chicago group has already begun their advocacy.
The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, a union of fast food and retail workers who fight for better working conditions, banned together with some Chicago McDonald’s employees in early November to call an end to the verbal abuse directed towards women employees in the food industry. For example, some employees of the the Rock N Roll McDonald’s, 600 N. Clark, said they experience it at their job.
Martha Farez is of Ecuadorian descent and has worked at that location for nine years. She reported that her manager teases her because of her accent and makes jokes about about her physical appearance. She said that the manager will even make her say certain words more than once just to make fun of her.
“When I’m in a certain part of the restaurant, like when I’m near the registers, he’ll just scream at me, get out of here, get out, very disrespectfully,” Farez said through a translator.
“We want to put an end to the verbal abuse, we want to be respected, we’re women and we shouldn’t have to put up with verbal abuse at work,” she said.
The members attempted to deliver a letter listing their complaints and demands to the store manager, but one protestor said that didn’t work out too well.
Adriana Sanchez said that she spotted the manager hiding behind the counter. Eventually, they had to just leave it on top of the counter. A copy of the letter was sent directly to the corporation, though.
“We are sick and tired of being screamed at everyday by management,” the letter reads. “We are sick and tired of the discrimination we face as Ecuadorian women; our ethnicity and culture is not something to be humiliated by, instead our culture is an enrichment to this country, which was built on immigrants…we are asking for a safe working environment, where we feel respected and free from verbal abuse and discrimination,” they say in the letter.
The group is demanding the right to form a union, as well as a meeting with Nick Karavites, McDonald’s Owner and Operator.
To The Chicago Defender, Karavites would only say in an email:
“We are committed to providing a respectful work environment for all of our employees. We have an Open Door policy that empowers our employees to ask questions or voice concerns at any time.”
A copy of the policy on harassment in the employee handbook says: The Company will not tolerate, condone, or allow harassment or discrimination of any kind, whether engaged in by fellow employees, supervisors, managers or non-employees who conduct business with the Company.
The store manager declined to comment.
Workers from other locations came to support Farez. Connie Bennett works at the McDonald’s on 83rd and Ashland Ave. and she said that Farez’s situation upsets her. Bennett’s co-worker, Andre Thigpen, felt the same.
“She shouldn’t have to put up with disrespect from her manager,” Thigpen said. “We’re all human beings and if we’re going to at least get paid minimum wage, we should at least get some respect from our employees and our managers.”
Douglas Hunter, a father of a 16-year-old daughter, said he wanted to participate in the protest because he saw Farez’s situation as a “threat to justice.”
“This is about human dignity, this is about talking to people like they’re human beings and treating people like they’re human beings,” he said.
“Just because someone works for you doesn’t give you the right to treat them and talk to them any kind of way, we’re still human; it doesn’t matter how much money we make an hour,” Hunter said.
Members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago said they will not walk around from this issue until it is addressed and their demands are met.