Chicago fast-food workers gathered for a caravan protest Tuesday outside a Lincoln Park Taco Bell to draw public attention toward at least two complaints about unsafe working conditions they say the company has failed to address, according to organizers.
COVID-19 is at the heart of their concerns: workers allege that management never told them about multiple co-workers who tested positive, and failed to implement special sanitization or social distancing protocols. Protesters amassed outside the restaurant on Clybourn Avenue inside their vehicles, which bore signs with messages like “worker health is public health.” A Taco Bell representative denied the workers’s allegations to NBC Chicago, saying that the restaurants are safe.
They then drove to a McDonald’s location in the Loop where protesters say workers have also tested positive for coronavirus. In mid-May, five area McDonald’s workers filed a class action lawsuit in Cook County alleging that the company also failed to inform workers about colleagues that tested positive for COVID-19 and didn’t provide enough personal protective equipment (PPE). Just around the same time, the company released a 59-page guide to franchise owners instructing them how to minimize virus risk in their dining rooms. All told, it’s a messy picture and one that will likely prompt most customers to opt for drive-thru.
In other news...
- A Chicago restaurant worker who was struck and seriously injured by a supposed Grubhub driver in May is suing both the delivery company and the driver, according to her attorneys. Bijan Choya Early, the 24-year-old daughter of Ms. T’s Southern Fried Chicken owner Angenita Tanner, suffered nerve damage and multiple broken and fractured bones when the driver, 30-year-old Aamir Mohammed, hit her with a car following a verbal altercation inside the restaurant over social distancing. A video of the incident has circulated widely online. A Grubhub rep told Block Club Chicago that Mohammed was not an authorized driver for the company, which also banned the owner of the account Mohammed used. In a statement, Early’s attorneys at Corboy & Demetrio allege that Grubhub negligently allowed Mohammed to “access its platform and operate as a Grubhub driver” and are seeking at least $50,000 in damages.
- The city of Chicago announced Tuesday that it has canceled multiple major summer events, including annual food celebration Taste of Chicago and mammoth music festival Lollapalooza, according to the Tribune and multiple other news reports. This spells more bad news for the local hospitality industry, as the summer months usually bring a significant amount of revenue for bars and restaurants. Instead, the city will launch “Taste of Chicago To-Go” on July 8 to 12. It’ll kick off with a food truck procession, and will expand the Community Eats program to support around 25 food trucks and restaurants so they can provide free meals to a non-profit supporting frontline workers. There’s no word if Chicago Gourmet will take place. The upscale festival is planned for September 25 to 27 at Millennium Park.
- Navy Pier begins reopening today after nearly three months with outdoor restaurant spaces, Pier Park, and the north and south docks available. Rides, however, will remain closed for the time being and groups are limited at nine people or less. The open spaces, including massive outdoor deck and lounge Offshore, will feature masked servers and plenty of disinfectant. Folks are upset that taverns across Chicago remain closed while Navy Pier, a tourist attraction that famously draws crowds, gets to reopen.
Welcome back, everyone! ❤️ Navy Pier officially reopens to the public on Wednesday, June 10. Before you visit, be sure to learn more about our safety guidelines and procedures: https://t.co/KQxjwaRvZp pic.twitter.com/kG9nydiwxj— Navy Pier (@NavyPier) June 8, 2020
- Some Chicago bar and brewery owners are frustrated by the city’s current ban on dine-in service at establishments that don’t serve food, according to Block Club Chicago. Ravenswood Dovetail Brewery co-owner Hagen Dost told reporters that the city’s decision seems ‘arbitrary,’ and has little use for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s claim that people drinking at bars are less likely to abide by social distancing rules. He wants the city to create a short-term pilot program that allows 75-minute blocks of allotted time per customer, appropriately spaced tables, sanitizing protocols, and partnerships with food trucks. Without action, he warns, Chicago breweries may close permanently.
- The owner of popular pizza spot Paulie Gee’s in Logan Square, Derrick Tung, will make his US Pizza Cup-winning Detroit-style pizza for virtual pizza tour “Meet the Makers” on June 12. It’s an opportunity for passionate pizza fans to learn about different genres of pies and support the participating pizzaiolos. Online admission is $25, and 100 percent of ticket sales will go to the chefs, according to a rep. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.