A New York City McDonald’s crew in Washington Heights walked out of the restaurant on Friday after they were forced to work in record high temperatures without air conditioning.
The heat index reached 107 degrees on Friday.
Luisa Villa, an employee who participated in the walkout, said the air conditioner in the restaurant’s kitchen has been broken for at least nine years, since she began working there. She said that the owners make fun of the employees who complain about the heat.
“They think we’re animals,” Villa said in Spanish. “We’re people. We don’t want to die and you can certainly die from the heat.”
One woman, Esheliz Méndez, collapsed from the heat and was transported to a hospital by the NYC Fire Department. Méndez complained several times about the broken air conditioner, which was fixed once but broke again one week later and was never restored.
According to Villa, the franchise owner Dominga De Jesus brought in temporary workers to replace those who walked out. She hopes the company will not retaliate against or fire them for walking out in protest.
Many, however, supported the workers’ decision.
“The workers were working under inhumane conditions,” Senator Adriano Espaillat said. “The temperature was as high as 120 degrees by the ovens.”
McDonald’s spokesman Bruce Colley said that the franchise owners apologized for any discomfort they may have caused the employees.