Angela Martinez Gomez was a 41-year-old Burger King employee who died July 6 after displaying coronavirus symptoms. Co-workers at the Santa Monica, California, location staged a strike following her death, claiming the restaurant failed to protect Martinez and other employees.
A silent protest was held on Friday at the 1919 Pico Boulevard franchise location, demanding a temporary closure due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
The newspaper reported Yolanda Garcia filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the local CAL/OSHA division. Garcia, an employee at the fast-food restaurant, accused the franchise of allowing Martinez to work while sick, as well as failing to offer fresh masks for each shift and conduct frequent cleanings of high-touch surfaces, the Daily Press reports.
In the complaint, Garcia claims Martinez died after suffering from a “bad cough, high fever and other systems,” the outlet added. Garcia and other workers are now experiencing similar symptoms, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Daily Press.
“Several workers walked out for safety on July 6, after learning of Angela’s death,” the complaint reads, according to the newspaper. “A worker shouldn’t have to die and workers shouldn’t have to strike to call attention to COVID-19 safety at Burger King.”
The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner has deferred Martinez’s cause of death pending a further investigation, the Daily Press reported. It has not yet been confirmed whether she had the novel coronavirus.
Here’s what you need to know about Angela Martinez Gomez:
1. Martinez Worked for a Week While Showing COVID-19-Related Symptoms, the Complaint Says
Martinez, who worked at Burger King for 15 years, worked for a week while ill until leaving a shift early on June 29, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
The employee was “coughing, nauseous and taking frequent bathroom breaks,” the outlet disclosed, citing the complaint. She was also self-medicating with cold medicine.
A second employee also worked during that time with “chills and a high temperature,” the newspaper reported.
The Daily Press disclosed that Garcia, who suffers from diabetes, is claiming to be the third employee to develop symptoms.
“I feel very worried and I have a bad headache,” she wrote in the complaint, the newspaper reported. “July 8 I woke up coughing with chills, shaking and body aches, my right lung hurts making it difficult to breathe, and I am very tired.”
Adding, “I am worried about my health and my family’s health; eight of us live together, and my brother and I both have diabetes. Last week I visited my grandchildren, and now I do not know if I have COVID-19, or if I gave it to them. I am worried.”
2. Martinez Was a Transgender Woman; a Manager Blamed Her Death on Hormones, According to the Complaint
Garcia’s complaint claims a manager initially blamed Martinez’s death on the hormones she was taking as a transgender woman, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported.
The complaint states that the manager told employees Martinez died as a result of “injecting hormones,” the newspaper continued.
When Garcia expressed concern over Martinez’s death, the manager insisted it was the result of medical treatment, the Daily Press disclosed.
“I don’t know of anyone who has been notified as a close contact or quarantined,” said Garcia in the complaint obtained by the newspaper. “I told (the manager) I was going to get tested for COVID-19, and she said she was going to get tested too, but she also said she didn’t think Angela died of COVID-19, she said Angela died of injecting hormones. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Because Martinez had been taking hormones for a while during her transition, Garcia said she does not believe the medications would cause such a sudden death, the Daily Press reported.
3. Workers Are Now Demanding the Location Close
Burger King workers in Santa Monica, CA are on strike and protesting today after a Trans woman employee died after getting sick with coronavirus symptoms. pic.twitter.com/wBZ2S1vQLT
— Michael Sainato (@msainat1) July 10, 2020
Garcia is pleading with regulators to temporarily close the Santa Monica location until a cleaning and safety plan has been enacted, the Santa Monica Daily Press indicated.
She is also pushing for employees to be paid during the closure — or any quarantine-related procedures — due to work-place exposure, the newspaper continued. Garcia told MyNewsLa.com the fast-food chain needs to be held responsible:
My coworkers and I work at Burger King in Santa Monica and we are writing to seek immediate action from the health department to close the restaurant we work at, to require that our employer quarantine all employees with pay, to ensure that when the location reopens it is a safer place to work and eat and to take all appropriate steps to hold Burger King accountable for the dangerous and deadly conditions it has demanded that we work in
Lastly, Garcia is demanding that all health-order violations be prosecuted, the outlet said.
4. Burger King Says it Has Not Received Confirmation of Coronavirus Cases or Symptoms at the Specific Location
In a statement obtained by the Santa Monica Daily Press, Burger King claims it has not seen any reported cases of the virus at the location. It also stated that it has safety precautions in place to keep workers and customers safe.
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Angela Martinez Gómez, who had worked at Burger King for more than fifteen years,” the statement reads, according to the newspaper. “Burger King deeply values diversity, equality and the safety and fair treatment of our team members and guests,” the statement reads.
“Burger King restaurants follow rigorous precautions to keep team members and guests safe at all times. We have not received any news or confirmation that Angela’s tragic death was associated with Covid-19. No symptoms were reported by the team at that location. Our deepest condolences go out to Angela’s family and friends during this devastating time.”
The Daily Press reported that the company is “investigating the report that transphobic comments were made. They do not align with our values and are unacceptable. Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment is a priority for us and we will be sure to take swift action in this case.”
5. A Go Fund Me Has Been Created to Support Martinez’s Family
BREAKING: @BurgerKing workers are ON STRIKE after Angela Martinez Gómez, a trans co-worker, died after working with COVID-19 symptoms
BK denied Angela died of COVID, despite having symptoms.
— Fight for $15 LA (@Fightfor15LA) July 10, 2020
A Go Fund Me was established on July 9 with a goal of $20,000. More than 200 people have donated over $5,000 so far.
“Angela left a mark on all the people that met her, she was always a very happy and humble individual. Her friends, family and acquaintances will always carry her in our hearts,” the page reads. “She taught us to fight for our dreams and to be ourselves. For those reasons and for many more, we will miss her so much for the rest of our lives.”
Many have also taken to Twitter to condemn Burger King’s handling of Martinez’s death, accusing it of transphobia.
Fuck Burger King for transphobia and fuck them for not protecting workers. Peace be with Angela Martinez Gómez's family, and solidarity with the workers on strike. Chip in to the memorial fundraiser for her if you can https://t.co/92rrQFOBVu https://t.co/4bPlaqzTCm
— Matthew☭🏳️🌈 (@matthew_og) July 11, 2020
Others are calling for the boycott of the location, invoking the hashtag #TransLivesMatter.