Workers at McDonald's in East LA on strike, file Cal/OSHA complaint after coworker's death

Eric Resendiz Image
Thursday, June 22, 2023
East LA McDonald's workers strike, file complaint over coworker death
Workers are striking at an East Los Angeles McDonald's, saying management forces them to work through illness and injuries, possibly contributing to the death of one employee.

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Workers are striking at an East Los Angeles McDonald's, saying management forces them to work through illness and injuries - pointing to one coworker who was so sick while being required to work that she died days later.

Workers, community activists and union representatives held a rally to criticize the restaurant's policies and to honor coworker Bertha Montes. Her coworkers and loved ones said she died days after being forced to work at the McDonald's on 3rd Street near Gage Avenue while ill.

"I was almost in Bertha's shoes," said Nayeli Hernandez, a former employee at that location. "I was diagnosed with pneumonia because I had gotten sick and management didn't let me go home."

The Service Employees International Union says it helped cooks and cashiers file a complaint to the state labor department and Cal/OSHA.

The Cal/OSHA complaint states: "On April 13, 2023 Bertha was visibly sick at work, with bulging red, glossy eyes. Bertha told Vicky the manager that she was sick and needed to go home, but Vicky told Bertha she could not leave work and forced her to continue working for 3 hours before she was allowed to leave."

The complaint says Bertha died five days later.

Also mentioned in the complaint is shift manager Elizabeth Juarez.

"The beginning of this year I got into a car crash and they made me come into work injured with my face bruised up. And Bertha when she asked to go home they didn't let her go home," said Juarez.

McDonald's responded in a statement, on behalf of store owner and operator Matthew Tulaphorn: "We were deeply saddened to learn of Bertha's passing. Our top priority is always the health and wellbeing of our people, and we have policies in place to provide flexibility and accommodations, including sick pay, for crew members who are ill. We are looking into these serious allegations."

"We want justice for my sister. She unfortunately is not here. So we are here for her. We are here fighting for justice and the workers rights," said Monica Montes, Bertha's sister.

Workers said they'll be on strike until end of day Friday. SEIU said it's now up to the state agencies on whether they will launch an investigation.

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