Lying on the floor with scalding burns covering my arm, I never thought I would hear my manager say “put mustard on it.” Then again, when I started working at McDonald’s four years ago, I didn’t think I would be giving up my health in order to support myself and my daughter.
The managers at the store are always pushing us to work faster, even though it means running on greasy, wet floors in a kitchen filled with hot grills and piping hot oil.
As a result, I’ve been burned repeatedly at work over the past years. One morning during the breakfast rush, I slipped on the wet floor, catching my arm on the hot grill we us to make eggs. The grill burned almost my entire forearm. When I fell, I also twisted my wrist, causing nerve damage that lasts to this day. The store did not even have a first aid kit. Instead, my manager told me to squirt some mustard on my burn.
I ended up having to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, where I was put on morphine right away. I had to miss work for three weeks without pay. When I went back, my hand would still swell up, and my burn would start aching. My doctors prescribed physical therapy, and I eventually had to go on medical leave for six months.
There’s no reason that these kinds of injuries should happen at McDonald’s, but the company does nothing to protect us. I’ve never received any training on how to work safely while using really dangerous equipment. I’ve never been given any protective gear besides oven mitts, and the oven mitts often have holes in them and have led other workers at my store to get burned as well. And the fact that managers are constantly telling us to speed up and work faster just makes our jobs even more dangerous.
But none of this will change unless companies like McDonald’s take responsibility for the safety of their workers. McDonald’s controls everything from the speed of the drive-thru to the way we package the customer’s food. They know that our working conditions are unsafe, but they continue to do nothing about it.
I know I’m not alone. Across the country, almost four out of every five fast-food workers have been burned, most repeatedly, according to a survey released this week by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. The top causes for burns on the job are under-staffing and pressure to work too fast —just like what happened to me.
Fast-food companies should not be allowed to profit at the expense of the health and safety of their employees. Workers make billions of dollars for McDonald’s every year, yet McDonald’s continues to show a complete lack of interest in its workers’ safety.
I’m joining together with other workers because I have experienced first-hand what can happen when you have no control over your own working conditions. Workers need the power to stand together to protect ourselves and each other from the dangers created by the way the company does business.
All I wanted was to earn enough money to take care of my daughter and what I got instead was a serious injury and a mountain of medical bills. Fast-food workers are put in danger on the job every day, and it needs to change. Applying mustard can’t be this answer to this serious problem.