Fast-food workers describe melting food and air so hot it ‘felt like the grease from the kitchen was sliding down our throats’ as record heat pummels parts of the US

McDonald's workers protest heat conditions at a Los Angeles store.
McDonald’s workers protest heat conditions at a Los Angeles store.

  • Workers at McDonald’s and Jack In The Box protested working in over 100-degree temperatures.
  • Jack In The Box workers filed an OSHA complaint after their manager told them they were exaggerating.
  • A Hooters location and Voodoo Doughnut shop also held walkouts due to the high temperatures.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fast food workers are struggling to beat the heat as many areas in the US continue to face record temperatures.

“It was uncomfortable and hard to breathe,” Laura Pozos, a Los Angeles McDonald’s worker, told Insider after her location went several months without an air conditioner or working kitchen ventilator, even hitting in-store temperature around 100 degrees. “It felt like the grease from the kitchen was sliding down our throats.”

The heat wave has prompted several walkouts across the West Coast. On Tuesday, workers at a Sacramento Jack In The Box went on strike when conditions inside the restaurant hit as high as 109 degrees, according to a complaint the workers filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Sacramento County Public Health.

In the complaint, the group said that the air conditioning at the store was frequently broken and management had not implemented any strategies to keep workers safe from excessive heat exposure.

Jack In The Box workers protest heat conditions at Sacramento location.
Jack In The Box workers protest heat conditions at Sacramento location.

“She [the manager] said we were exaggerating and hot because of menopause,” one worker noted in the OSHA complaint after she approached her manager regarding the issue.

The location was one of many fast food sites in California that has faced backlash from employees who say they have been forced to work in extreme heat.

On Sunday, a Voodoo Doughnuts store in Portland staged a walkout due to heat conditions. The union Doughnut Workers United said in a Facebook post that temperatures were so high doughnuts were melting and the frosting wouldn’t dry. A Voodoo Doughnut spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider, but told the Huffington Post that they had kept the store air conditioner running and altered the store schedule to keep workers from laboring under peak temperatures.

Earlier in June, a Hooters in Houston held a walkout after the location went a month without air conditioning. A waitress told local news the store was so hot that the workers would gather in the ice cooler.

Similarly, a McDonald’s off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles staged a protest on June 17 to demand the company properly repair its air conditioning unit.

Pozos told Insider the heat poses an imminent risk to fast food workers. While the air conditioning and kitchen ventilation system was eventually fixed when her store hired a new manager, she says worker’s health should not be dependent on the generosity of their managers.

Pozos pointed to workers’ support of a bill introduced to the state legislature at the beginning of the year that would create a California Fast-Food Sector Council and give workers a voice in setting industry standards for fast food in California.

“We need a better place to go,” Pozos said. “We need to go directly to the people who would help enforce these issues or we will definitely continue to keep having these issues.”

McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, and Hooters did not respond to a request for comment. Insider reached out to the individual stores, but the managers were not able to provide an official statement without corporate approval.

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