A survey found that nearly half of McDonald's workers reported being verbally or physically assaulted for asking customers to wear masks, illustrating how contentious the debate over mask mandates has become in the U.S., Business Insider reported.
The Service Employees International Union surveyed more than 4,000 McDonald's workers, and 44% of those workers reported some form of assault by customers they approached about wearing masks as a COVID-19 precaution.
Some of those assaults have even sent workers to the hospital, leaving workers feeling like the company has put them in a bad position:
One McDonald's worker who was assaulted at work is Maria Resendiz, who visited the hospital in late June after being grabbed and hit by an anti-mask customer through a drive-thru window in Oakland, California, she told Business Insider. In Illinois, María Villaseñor recently filed a complaint with the Chicago Department of Public Health after seeing a McDonald's coworker attacked by a customer she asked to wear a mask.
"Throughout the pandemic, McDonald's has failed to protect us from COVID-19," Villaseñor told Business Insider. "Now it's asking us to police a culture war that's not in our job description and that we're not paid to do."
McDonald's did not feel the survey was an accurate representation of working conditions its employees face, and issued a statement dismissing the findings.
"[It is] disappointing to see the SEIU stirring up media attention yet again with these inaccurate characterizations, which do not represent what is happening in our 14,000 restaurants across the country," the company told Business Insider. "This survey represents just 0.5% of the more than 800,000 crew and managers within our McDonald's family working across our U.S. restaurants. While the SEIU is spending time sharing misinformation, McDonald's and our 2,000 franchisees are focused keeping crew and managers employed in safe environments to serve healthcare workers, first responders, and communities during this pandemic."
Many businesses, states, and localities are requiring people to wear masks in public, often putting lower-level employees in the unenviable position of having to approach customers without masks to tell them they must either put on a mask or leave.
At times, these workers have run into customers whose resistance to masks is so steadfast that they will defend it with violence. In a Louisiana Walmart, a man hit a police officer with his car and resisted arrest when the officer attempted to confront him over not having a mask on.