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Oakland McDonald’s workers on strike after allegedly being told to wear dog-diaper masks

Employees at an Oakland McDonald's went on strike Tuesday after four workers and their family members tested positive for COVID-19.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

After allegedly being told to wear masks made out of dog diapers, employees of a McDonald’s in Oakland went on strike Tuesday, effectively shutting down the restaurant, after at least four workers and their family members got sick with COVID-19.

The 22 workers of the Telegraph Avenue fast-food restaurant did not show up to work Tuesday, striking to demand a two-week paid quarantine period, company-paid medical costs and a deep cleaning of the store, plus proper personal protective equipment. Organizers say the cooks, cashiers and other workers were told to wear face masks made out of unused dog diapers or use coffee filters to make masks when they ran out of masks handed out by management.

“McDonald’s is treating us like dogs,” said worker Delia Vargas in a statement. “We don’t want to die for their hamburgers so we are going on strike, to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”

At least four workers tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week. At least three others, including one worker who is pregnant, are exhibiting symptoms of the virus as well. Family members of those who became sick, including a 10-month-old baby, also tested positive, according to The Fight for $15, an organization that helps organize fast-food workers.

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When one worker asked a manager about closing the store down for cleaning, the manager supposedly said it would mean losing customers, according to The Fight for $15. The workers also were told the restaurant would be completely shut on Monday, but people were still working that day.

Tuesday’s strike in Oakland comes a week after McDonald’s cooks and cashiers in 20 cities nationwide went on strike to protest what they called the company’s failed response to the pandemic.

Last month, McDonald’s workers held a car protest in Hayward demanding hazard pay and more coronavirus safeguards. Workers from various restaurants including San Jose and San Leandro were in a car caravan circling the fast-food chain in Hayward, honking and holding signs in protest. The protests in early April were inspired in part by similar protests in Los Angeles at that time when a worker tested positive for the virus.

L.A.'s Department of Public Health announced Tuesday it will publicly disclose restaurants that have had outbreaks of COVID-19.

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In San Francisco, McDonald’s workers filed a complaint with the city’s health department after mangers similarly told workers to use coffee filters as masks. At a separate restaurant in San Francisco, workers were not told when a colleague tested positive for COVID-19, and also filed a complaint with the city health department, according to The Fight for $15.


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