Actions Risk Health, Safety of Essential Service Plaza Workers & Public
Caravan protest will drive through parking lots at Milford and Darien at 11 AM Today
MILFORD, Conn. — Two McDonald’s stores at the rest stops on I-95 have continued operating without disinfecting properly after workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, threatening the health of other workers as well as of first responders, truck drivers, and all others who need to use the service plazas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past two weeks, the McDonald’s stores at the Milford and Darien northbound service plazas have sent home workers who were suffering symptoms. The workers later tested positive for the coronavirus, and workers report that at least one worker at Darien and one at Milford have been hospitalized. Neither store has closed nor have they disinfected their work areas.
“I was very careful about going out, so I think I may have become infected at work,” said a worker at the McDonald’s northbound Darien stop who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, April 9, and is now at home in self-quarantine. “I’ve heard that another worker had been sick as well and continued working for a while.”
“When I arrived at work on Friday, the manager said that a person had come out positive with the coronavirus,” said Andrea H., a worker at the Darien service plaza McDonald’s, “But I saw that a regular worker had just cleaned overnight. The management didn’t ask any worker to quarantine, nor did they disinfect the store professionally.”
McDonald’s and other major fast food companies at the service plazas subcontract with Project Services, LLC, which contracts directly with the State of Connecticut to operate on state-owned land. Despite their billions in sales, McDonald’s and the other fast food companies have not followed Connecticut law regarding paid sick time and the standard wage. The combination of low wages and lack of sick time forces workers to come to work sick so as to not fall deeper into poverty.
During the current pandemic, many workers who had been organizing with 32BJ SEIU for better working conditions have lost their jobs. Cooks and cashiers who continue working report a lack of adequate protection, and the absence of any disinfection of the stores where workers have become sick.
Workers will hold a caravan protest, driving from the Milford northbound rest stop to the Darien northbound rest stop at 11 AM today, in protest of the mistreatment and dangerous conditions. Last week, workers drove through the Darien rest stop blaring their horns, with signs posted on their cars such as, “McDonalds, use your billions to serve your workers!” and “McDonald’s is not safe for you or me.”
Legislators participated last week on a call with workers and the press to discuss this dangerous mistreatment, which now threatens the health of countless travelers and their home communities across the East Coast. A letter from the legislators has been sent to Project Services demanding action, with Senate President Martin Looney as the lead signatory.
“I am worried because I’m working at the service plaza after a fellow worker went home sick and is now in the hospital with COVID-19,” said Azucena Santiago, a worker at the Milford northbound store. “They told the sick worker’s coworkers to self-quarantine, and they brought in new workers from another store to replace them. But I worry that the disease is spreading because the store didn’t close or disinfect anything. We all have families that need to eat and need to stay healthy. McDonald’s doesn’t pay us any sick days when we are sent home. We’re caught in a terrible position. And customers keep coming to the store every day from everywhere.”
“A manager told me that our Fairfield store was sending workers to Milford to cover the shift that was ordered to quarantine,” said Esperanza Ramos, who works at the Fairfield southbound rest stop. “Everyone is afraid to speak out, but I know that if we don’t, people are at risk of getting sick.”
“The treatment of these workers is outrageous, and the public health threat it causes demands immediate action,” said Juan Hernandez, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU and head of the union in Connecticut. “Giant corporations like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and others need to protect their workers and support them if closures or hour reductions are necessary. We also ask Governor Lamont’s administration to please let Project Services know that it needs to immediately stop the abuse or face the loss of its contract with the state.”
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states and Washington DC, including 5,000 in Connecticut, 32BJ is the largest building service workers union in the country