McDonald’s flipped its famed golden arches to show support for women on International Women’s Day, creating a large “W” instead of taking meaningful steps to improve workplace conditions for women it employs.
The fast-food chain rolled out its altered logo across the company’s social media channels on Thursday, and announced that 100 of its U.S. locations will feature special “packaging, crew shirts and hats and bag stuffers.” One California franchise actually flipped the arches on its outdoor signs in advance of Thursday’s celebration.
“We have a long history of supporting women in the workplace, giving them the opportunity to grow and succeed,” company spokeswoman Lauren Altmin told CNBC. “In the U.S. we take pride in our diversity and we are proud to share that today, six out of 10 restaurant managers are women.”
A closer look, however, exposes a company culture steeped in unfair treatment of women.
Hourly workers in eight states filed complaints of sexual harassment against the chain in 2016. Workers reported having their breasts and posteriors groped, in addition to propositioning and lewd comments. One woman alleged that her boss texted her, offering $1,000 for oral sex.
“One day, [my shift supervisor] Derek showed me a photo of his genitals. That was my breaking point,” said one plaintiff, Cycei Monae, who recounted that she was harassed by the boss daily.
The harassment claims fit a pattern across the fast-food industry, marked by employees often hesitant to come forward for fear of losing work. Two in five women working in fast food reported experiencing some form of harassment, according to a 2016 Hart Research study. Yet fewer than half end up reporting the behavior. Of those who do, one in five end up facing some form of retaliation.
“We don’t make a lot of money; I was paid only $8.50 an hour,” Monae explained in a HuffPost blog. “Many of us have families to support. Our economic survival might depend on keeping quiet — and that is beyond wrong.”
McDonald’s pay structure afflicts all of its workers, not just women. Most of the burger chain’s workers were making less than $10 an hour until recently, even those with years of experience at the company. The chain finally announced in 2015 that it would raise its average hourly minimum pay to $9.90 from $9.01 and would eventually let pay rise above $10 per hour.