Fast food workers went on strike Tuesday across the state, including in the East Bay and South Bay, to demand better health and safety conditions, organizers said.
In Oakland, about two dozen striking workers gathered at noon outside Jack in the Box at 532 Hegenberger Road to protest violence at their workplace. Joining the workers were community members and members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021.
According to a complaint addressed to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, angry customers at the Hegenberger Road restaurant throw drinks and food or whatever is in their hands at workers every week.
Customers have also broken a glass door to get into the store lobby and brandished a gun in a dispute with a manger over a hamburger, the complaint says.
Also, one worker is scared her manager will scream at her again or hit her following an incident in late September. The manager told her to run with food only to grab it and scream in her face.
Workers in Oakland and elsewhere in California, including in the San Jose area and in Los Angeles, were also striking to voice their support for the Fast Food Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery Act, also known as Assembly Bill 257.
“While multi-billion dollar fast-food corporations are collecting record profits during the pandemic, their workers continue to be paid dismally low wages and have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, the primary author of AB 257.
“While putting their health on the line to serve customers, they are denied paid sick leave and forced to compromise their safety at work,” Gonzalez added. “To address the failures of this industry to create secure, good quality jobs, fast food workers need the authority in state law to shape their own workplace standards and hold their employers accountable without facing retaliation.”
Legislation aimed at accountability
AB 257 will go before the Assembly in January and would create a Fast-Food Sector Council able to set minimum health, safety, and employment standards in the state’s fast-food industry.
Also, under AB 257 owners of franchise restaurants would have a say and leverage when they need resources to comply with the standards. Corporate restaurants like McDonald’s also would have to be sure their stores and franchise owners have what they need to meet the standards.
“Often there is not enough staff to get food out quickly to customers, so customers get cold food, and some of them get very angry and then they attack us,” the complaint against Jack in the Box on Hegenberger Road says. “Management is accustomed to these kinds of violent incidents, and we don’t think they care what happens to us.”
Workers also filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA against the Jack in the Box at 3035 Castro Valley Blvd. in Castro Valley. Workers allege that the restaurant is putting their lives at risk by failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ingrid Vilorio, who works at the Jack in the Box in Castro Valley, said the restaurant did not provide workers with masks or hand sanitizer. Vilorio also said workers never received proper training related to COVID-19.
Like in Oakland, someone broke a window at the store and managers did not ask workers if they had any concerns about the incident, Vilorio said. She works the night shift. Managers just had the door repaired.
Cal/OSHA officials confirmed they received a complaint from workers at both the Castro Valley and Hegenberger stores.
Jack in the Box officials said they are communicating with their Sacramento franchisee, “who is taking further steps to investigate the situation and address the issues with its employees.
“While we do not employ the workers in our franchised restaurants, as a brand, we strive to promote safety, consistency and clarity for all restaurant workers and guests,” the restaurant’s leaders said.