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East LA McDonald’s workers strike, demand justice for Berta Montes!

By Alejandro Orellana

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Los Angeles, CA – Workers at a local McDonald's went on strike June 9, as part of a weeklong struggle by employees to bring to light the heinous working conditions they have been forced to endure. The strikers called for an end to harassment from management, for union representation, and justice for Berta Montes, a McDonald's employee whose death many coworkers attribute to management's negligence and overall lack of interest in their worker's health and safety.

According to her coworkers, Berta Montes was feeling sick at work one day. When she asked her manager if she could be allowed to go home, she was denied. Montes was forced to endure three more hours of her shift as her illness worsened. After she had clocked out she felt bad enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. She passed away five days later. Many of her fellow workers believe that Berta's death could have been avoided if she would have been allowed to leave work to seek treatment when she asked.

When asked why they were on strike, the general consensus of the workers and supporters on the picket line was “Justice for Berta Montes!”

Alexis Paulino, one of Montes's coworkers, said, “The reason why we're on strike is because of our coworker, she passed away and it’s their fault! They don't treat us right. They verbally abuse us, they harass us, they tell us our work isn't good enough, they overwork us, they don't let us take our sick days when we ask for them, and we're constantly having to deal with faulty equipment creating an unsafe work environment.”

Workers recounted an incident in which there was a gas leak and managers did not let employees evacuate for half-an-hour because they “had a line.”

“The managers don't give you your breaks or lunches on time, they make you work overtime; sometimes they'll force you to clock out and make you keep working,” said another worker at this McDonald's location.

Samantha Mendez, another worker, said, “During the pandemic the managers wouldn't let you leave if you had COVID. Management is very confrontational, their conduct is unprofessional, they yell at you and then they force you to multitask, and when you make a mistake, instead of teaching you, they make fun of you. They don't let you have your phones, so our families have no way of contacting us if there's an emergency. They deny you a doctor if you get hurt on the job, and like what happened to our coworker; they won't let you go to the hospital.”

Among these several grievances expressed by these workers, several others stood out, including feeling unsafe at work, bad air quality, pay issues, understaffing, workers not being allowed to use the restroom, and workers being forced to sweep trash in the rain. The workers provided a description of an extremely hostile workplace. Though for these workers, the struggle continues when they return to work. They will be forced to sign a warning letter upon their return to work, but their risk has won them the community's support and brought their struggle to light.

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