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Multiple Positive COVID-19 Tests at SoCal McDonald’s Leads to Statewide Fast Food Strike

Two employees at a West Adams McDonald’s tested positive, while another from the Monterey Park location remains in the hospital on oxygen

Police attempt to break up protest at South LA McDonald’s on April 6, 2020
Police attempt to break up protest at South LA McDonald’s on April 6, 2020
Wonho Frank Lee
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Over the last few weeks, three LA-area McDonald’s employees tested positive for COVID-19. That includes two workers from the 2838 Crenshaw location in West Adams, and another at the corporate-owned location at 950 W. Floral Drive in Monterey Park. These employees allege management did not provide protective gear, and did not share the health status of their co-workers in a timely manner. These actions prompted protests at both SoCal McDonald’s and at other fast food restaurants throughout the state.

In a protest organized by the labor rights organization Fight For $15, employees from Burger King, Taco Bell, Domino’s, and other chains demanded safety measures like masks, gloves, and soap, as well as hazard pay and paid sick days.

According to Monterey Park McDonald’s employee Angelica Hernandez, employees approached management in mid-March citing a lack of safety protocols and gear in place to protect workers. On March 20, three employees walked off the job, accusing management of not taking their concerns seriously. On April 10, additional Monterey Park employees walked off the job, requesting that management do more to protect their workers from COVID-19, close the store for a thorough cleaning, and pay workers for a two-week quarantine period.

Hernandez says management has failed to provide safety guidance for employees since the pandemic began. In recent weeks, protest organizers alleged that the unnamed Monterey Park employee continued to work on March 30 while exhibiting symptoms before being asked to leave. It is unknown when the hospitalized employee tested positive, but a Fight For $15 spokesperson says employees were not informed until nine days after after their coworker began showing symptoms.

“I have my kids at home,” Hernandez says in Spanish. “They aren’t going to school right now. The fear for me is going back home with a contagious [disease]. I’m going to work for almost nothing, with the possibility of contaminating my family. They are not taking care of workers at a time when we are putting ourselves at great danger to help the company keep operating during this crisis. They should be taking care of us.”

On Wednesday, West Adams McDonald’s employee Verli Godinez tested positive for COVID-19. Godinez worked at this franchise-owned store last week without a protective face mask. Another unnamed employee from the same store had also tested positive on March 31. The employees accuse management of not informing them until April 4.

Management temporarily closed the location on Wednesday afternoon. Workers there also asked for two weeks of paid quarantine compensation, plus a meeting with management to establish safety concerns before employees return to work.

Earlier this week at the West Adams McDonald’s, employees asked for the same worker protections and compensation. Their protest was broken up by police because protesters blocked the drive-thru entrance with their cars. “The strike and the petition is to put the (West Adams) store in quarantine, to clean and disinfect the store where I work,” says employee Bartolome Perez. “We also demand that they pay the full quarantine [period]. McDonald’s is made out of the workers, not the CEO or owners. Stop putting our lives at risk and respect our dignity.”

Police officers break up a protest at McDonald’s in LA on April 7
Police officers break up a protest at McDonald’s in LA on April 7
Wonho Frank Lee

Eater reached out to McDonald’s for comment and received the following statement from spokesperson Mike Vizza:

“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our number one priority. Since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the US in February, and in accordance with the guidance of the CDC, we’ve continuously evolved our safety programs and processes across the U.S. in order to help customers and restaurant employees feel safe. Our supply chain team is working tirelessly to secure critical supplies, such as non-medical grade masks. In addition to social distancing decals, gloves and protective barriers, masks have started to arrive in franchisee and company owned restaurants with allocation going first to areas where the use of masks is required by law, to hotspots with a high level of confirmed cases in the community and then to the rest of the country. While we fulfill supply across the country, we are recommending permitting the use of DIY mask solutions consistent with recent CDC guidance.”