McDonald’s workers recently filed complaints with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 19 cities alleging burns from popping grease, lack of protective equipment, and other workplace hazards. The complaints are a tool to exert public pressure on McDonald’s as fast food workers campaign for $15 an hour wages and unionization. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began the push for higher wages and unionization more than two years ago. Among other tactics, the SEIU has protested and filed lawsuits alleging workers weren’t given their rightful pay.

Filing charges with OSHA and lawsuits over wage and hour misclassification or unpaid overtime are a typical tactic unions use when seeking to organize a workforce. The goal of this multi-prong approach is to overwhelm employers and force them into agreeing with the union’s demands. 

The recent complaints highlight a central theme of the “Fight for $15” campaign, which has been trying to hold McDonald’s Corporation and its franchisees accountable as “joint employers” for working conditions at its franchise restaurants. Fast food chains have explained that they are not responsible for employment decisions at franchised restaurants, but this has not deterred the unions.