Hundreds of California fast food workers plan to strike amid coronavirus pandemic

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“Hundreds” of non-union fast-food workers across California plan to strike on Thursday, demanding that their companies beef up efforts to protect them on the job during the global coronavirus pandemic.

On April 9, employees of 30 restaurants, including Burger King, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Subway, El Pollo Loco and WaBa Grill, intend to walk off the job and strike, Vice reports, in a protest coordinated in part by Fight for $15.

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The effort was inspired by two recent strikes at McDonald’s restaurants in San Jose and Los Angeles, after an employee at the latter recently tested positive for COVID-19, per Fox 11.

The fast-food workers claim their employers are not providing enough personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to shield them from potential exposure to the viral disease while at work.

“Roughly half of workers reported having been discouraged or banned from wearing face masks or gloves on the job," Fight for $15 tweeted on Wednesday.

In response to the protests in San Jose and Los Angeles, McDonald's pledged to make "important changes" to its health and safety policies while operating during the pandemic, The Mercury News reported. Spokesperson Lindsay Rainey said that the increased efforts will include "wellness checks, increased cleanings and additional social distancing and hand-washing guidelines." Furthermore, Mickey D's will be "sending non-medical grade masks to the areas of greatest need" and "making gloves available to crew members, in addition to rigorous hand washing routines."

A spokesperson for the Golden Arches also told Fox News on Thursday that at company-owned restaurants, employees who are impacted by the virus will receive two weeks of paid leave to tend to critical health needs. Likewise, workers at a “large percentage” of franchised restaurants will receive emergency paid leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the spokesperson said.

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Striking McDonalds workers demanding a $15 minimum wage demonstrate in Las Vegas, Nevada in June 2019.

Striking McDonalds workers demanding a $15 minimum wage demonstrate in Las Vegas, Nevada in June 2019. (Reuters)

Still, the Golden State fast-food workers are challenging their employers to provide “masks, gloves, soap, $3-an-hour hazard pay,” as well as fourteen days of paid sick leave to employees exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to Vice.

“I’m very afraid for my life and the life of my daughter who also works at McDonald’s. Workers are scared of retaliation, but we’re not going to wait for one of us to die or get sick with the virus,” said Maria Ruiz, an employee of a McDonald’s in San Jose, to the outlet. Ruiz has been striking since Monday, and plans to participate in the Thursday effort.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, some of the protesting employees will stage a socially distant strike line at the Los Angeles McDonald’s at 7123 Crenshaw Blvd. Another safely distanced, "drive-through" strike line will be held in Oakland, with more gathering for a virtual picket line via Zoom later in the day, Vice reports.

Though thousands of dine-in restaurants are temporarily closed across much of the country during the ongoing outbreak, many fast-food chains remain open for drive-thru and delivery services, albeit with increased sanitization protocols.

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