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Workers protest low wages, lack of safety equipment and alleged racism

Mysheka Ronquillo says she’s waging an uphill battle.

As a Black employee of Carl’s Jr., Ronquillo says she and her co-workers of color are treated differently while all of the staff are earning substandard wages with no health insurance and allegedly working without adequate COVID-19 protections.

“We need a fair wage, health insurance and hazard pay for being forced to work with people who have COVID-19, ” the 38-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “They are not telling these people to go home.”

In a message posted last month, Carl’s Jr. parent company CKE Restaurant Holdings Inc. said it is committed to diversity and fair treatment of its employees. The company didn’t address COVID-19 safety measures.

On Monday, Ronquillo joined with other non-union fast-food employees, gig workers, ride-share drivers, healthcare personnel, janitors and Black Lives Matter activists in a car caravan to highlight their concerns.

The protest kicked off at a McDonald’s at 2829 Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles and made its way to the USC campus where grad students are calling on the university to abolish the campus police department.



A 25-city protest

Monday’s action was part of 25-city “Strike for Black Lives” protest with unions, workers and supporters calling on corporations and government take action to confront the “triple threat” of racism, the COVID-19 pandemic and a broken economy that has made life difficult for non-union, low-wage workers of color.

The protests are part of a global uprising on race and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck in late May.

Workers walked off their jobs for eight minutes and 46 seconds Monday to remember Floyd and other Blacks killed by police and to demand an end to the “systemic racism” that led to their murders.

A higher standard

Ronquillo, who has worked at a Carl’s Jr. in Long Beach for nearly two years and earns $13 an hour, said management holds a higher standard for Black and Hispanic workers.

“Whether you’re young or old, they’re saying ‘You’re not fast enough’ or ‘You’re not good enough,’ ” she said. “They’re not saying that to the white workers.”

Ned Lyerly, chief executive for Carl’s Jr. parent company CKE Restaurant Holdings Inc., said his company is “committed to diversity, fair treatment and fostering an environment that celebrates different genders, sexual orientations, beliefs and races, especially in support of the Black community and people of color.”

“We are taking this opportunity to listen, learn and act,” Lyerly said in a statement issued last month. “We acknowledge that it is crucial we advance dialogue on how best to bring our communities together, embrace our differences and together be agents of positive change.”

Lyerly didn’t address Monday’s protests or safety protocols related to the pandemic.

Los Angeles protesters were joined Monday by representatives from Fight for $15 and a Union, Mobile Workers Alliance, Service Employees International Union and a host of other organizations supporting their cause.

Lizette Aguilar, who has worked at a McDonald’s at 1716 Morango St. in Los Angeles for three years, said her biggest concern is safety amid the health crisis.

“Workers are infected with COVID-19 and McDonald’s has not done a very good job of putting them in quarantine or adequately disinfecting the restaurant, the 35-year-old employee said. “This is bad because I have to go home to my family. Most of the fast-food employees are Latino or African-American.”

McDonald’s boosts safety measures

In a statement issued Monday, McDonald’s said it “supports the need for racial equality and social justice and stands with Black communities across the globe.”

The fast-food giant said it has boosted safety measures amid the health crisis.

“McDonald’s and our franchisees distributed an ample supply of PPE with no supply breaks, including gloves and over 100 million masks, in addition to installing protective barriers in restaurants, the company said. “We are confident the vast majority of employees are covered with sick pay if they are impacted by COVID-19.”

Source: Orange County Register

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