NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Scores of local government officials from 31 U.S. states pressured McDonald's Corp's on Thursday to do a better job of protecting workers from groping, obscene comments and other forms of sexual harassment, adding their voices to an employee-led campaign that has seen walkouts at several stores.
In a letter to CEO Steve Easterbrook, 115 mayors, commissioners, city councilors and school board members asked McDonald's to meet with workers, hear their stories and together craft tougher policies to effectively stamp out harassment.
The officials are part of a advocacy network called Local Progress.
Members of the U.S. Congress have written similar letters and employees have ratcheted up pressure on McDonald's at a time that the chain and other fast food restaurants have struggled to find and retain enough staff.
The letter said McDonald's employees have filed more than 50 sexual harassment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Reuters could not verify this because EEOC complaints are not public.
When asked to comment on the letter, McDonald's referred Reuters to its Aug. 28 statement announcing a new training program for safe workplaces, which has support from more than 2,000 franchisees.
"Together with our franchisees, we have a responsibility to take action on this issue and are committed to promoting positive change," said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald's USA president. "These actions are one more step we are taking to raise awareness at all levels of McDonald's that will transfer both inside and outside the workplace."
Workers and those organizing them are trying to pressure McDonald's, the largest U.S. restaurant chain by sales, to boost wages and address violence and harassment problems at its roughly 14,000 U.S. locations, most of them independently owned.
On Tuesday, workers at a Los Angeles McDonald's walked off the job to protest, saying retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is rampant and they have been excluded from policy discussions, according to organizers and news reports - one of several similar protest in the last year and a half.
Last year, McDonald's started working with RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country, to improve its policies.
McDonald's August announcement was for an even broader program focused on mitigating violence, harassment, bias and bullying, to start in October.
Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by David Gregorio