McDonald’s workers in LA are striking after a violent attack by a customer reportedly left one employee bruised and beaten

McDonald's arches in front of sunset
McDonald’s iconic golden arches. Gene J. Puskar/ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A group of six McDonald’s workers is calling on the company to add better safety protocols.
  • The restaurant has called 911 on average once every four days, according to a complaint with Cal/OSHA seen by Insider.
  • Violence and outburst against workers are partially a product of anxiety from COVID.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Workers at a south Los Angeles area McDonald’s location are striking Tuesday citing a years-long pattern of violence plaguing the store.

Workers at the restaurant held a rally outside to call attention to the violence preperated by cusotmes they’ve been subjected to. They also demanded McDonald’s provide a safer working environment, as well as additional trainings to deal with violent interactions.

The strike was prompted by a recent incident, which an angry customer attacked a cashier, according to an OSHA report signed by six workers at the restaurant. A worker at the location, Victor Bonilla, said that he had to step in to save the cashier from the customer.

“I had to jump in to try to separate out the customer. I was hit twice in the ribs and stomach. I don’t think the manager called the police, and I didn’t see the police come,” he said in the report.

McDonald’s condemned the violence in the restaurant in a statement to Insider and said the police were indeed called.

“We are outraged by this senseless act of violence that has no place in our restaurants. Fostering a safe workplace for crew is incredibly important to us, and we have multiple layers of established security measures in the restaurant, including security personnel and an updated security system,” McDonald’s USA Operations Officer Jackie Bunting told Insider. “In this instance, protocol was followed, and law enforcement were contacted immediately to intervene. We were proud to welcome the impacted employee back to work and will continue to focus on safely serving our communities.”

Another worker, Fanny Velazquez, said that management hasn’t provided guidance or training for how to deal with violence on the job.

“When there is a violent incident happening, management doesn’t give us instructions about what to do or tell us what is going on. Usually, I just know about it because I hear the screaming from the front,” she said in a statement included in the report.

Workers say violence is an ongoing problem at the location, and they have made past complaints with Cal/OSHA and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

“Violence happens every day at this McDonald’s,” the workers wrote in their CalOsha complaint viewed by Insider. Over the three-year period from 2017 to 2020, public records reviewed by Fight for 15 show 354 911 calls from the restaurant, or about one call every four days. The calls included disturbances, assaults, burglaries, threats, and more.

McDonald’s says these 911 calls also include non-violent needs like illness and wellness checks, and they are presented out of context in the report.

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In the filing, workers ask the agency “to require this McDonald’s take action to provide a safe and secure workplace, free of threats and violence,” and “provide us with training so we know what to do if there is a violent incident.”

Customer violence is a major concern across the retail industry, and it has only gotten worse during the pandemic. A Service Employees International Union survey of 4,187 McDonald’s workers in the summer of 2020 found that nearly half of respondents said that they had been physically or verbally assaulted.

The pandemic has caused fear and anxiety in people, activating the amygdala, the fight-or-flight part of the brain, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Luana Marques told Insider’s Avery Hartmans.

Some retail workers are leaving the industry in droves. The labor shortage in many sectors of the economy is a boon to dissatisfied retail workers who are suddenly able to shop around for new jobs and leave low pay and difficult customers.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at [email protected].