Burger King workers feeling flame-grilled in Atlanta store with broken A/C
'I have serious health issues and can't work in the extreme heat. It’s so uncomfortable, I can barely think, let alone work. We shouldn’t have to work in conditions like this. Burger King makes more than enough to keep the air conditioning fixed.,' said Arnice Sykes, a Burger King worker. | via USSW

ATLANTA—From Hollywood writers and actors to the Teamsters, a wave of labor action is sweeping the country, and Atlanta is no stranger to this tide. Last Friday, July 28, several service sector workers rallied at a Burger King in Decatur to support employees there.

Backed by the Union of Southern Service Workers (USSW), organizers and workers marched on the fast-food location to raise awareness of workplace safety issues, primarily the soaring kitchen temperatures workers are forced to endure since the location’s air conditioning stopped working.

Led by a cadre of flag wavers and chanting marchers, the rally gathered behind Arnice Sykes, a Burger King employee and member of USSW. Sykes described the state of her workplace in stark but grim terms. She noted that sometimes the thermostat inside “will read 92-93 degrees” and she has to “go into the freezer in order to get cool.”

She made clear that she doesn’t just fight for herself; she organizes for a better workplace because “it benefits everybody else that works there.”

via USSW

Others who work at other service sector companies were present as well, including former Dollar General employee Tay Milsap, who spoke about the unacceptable conditions corporations force on workers. The Dollar General store where Milsap worked also had a broken air conditioner unit, and after Milsap raised the issue, her manager fired her.

At the rally, Milsap spoke up about the conditions in her previous workplace, remarking how they made her “feel nauseous” and her “head would start hurting,” both symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion.

On July 29, the next day, USSW confirmed that the Burger King location had temporarily shut down. Several hours later, they informed their members in less than a day the air conditioning unit had been fixed and the store was reopened.

USSW has filed a complaint with OSHA about these unsafe conditions and has officially demanded that Burger King fix the air conditioning unit. With the Southern U.S. facing a historic rise in temperatures, USSW encouraged workers to familiarize themselves with signs of heat exhaustion and to organize their own workplaces.

Service workers in the South hoping to learn more can sign up for text and email alerts from the union through their website.

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Erica Meade
Erica Meade

Erica Meade is an organizer with the Angelo Herndon Club in Atlanta, Georgia. She got her start in political organizing through mutual aid in D.C., her hometown, before becoming involved with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.