McDonald’s Protesters Target Annual Meeting in $15 Fight

  • Union-backed demonstrators camped out near headquarters
  • CEO’s turnaround hasn’t silenced critics of worker pay

emonstrators calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15-dollars-per-hour march to McDonald's corporate headquarters during a protest on May 25, 2016 in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

McDonald’s Corp. protesters chanting “show me 15” descended on the fast-food giant’s headquarters Thursday to demand higher pay, the latest showdown in a four-year battle emboldened by minimum-wage victories in California and New York.

After camping out overnight outside of McDonald’s offices in Oak Brook, Illinois, demonstrators gathered to picket the company’s annual shareholder meeting. There were about 2,000 protesters on Wednesday and 1,000 on Thursday at the company’s headquarters buildings, according to the Oak Brook Police Department. Organizers said that several thousand fast-food, home-care and child-care workers from across the U.S. demonstrated.

The protests highlight the wage pressure facing the world’s largest restaurant chain. Advocates are lobbying for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and they’ve already had success getting California and New York legislators to raise pay to that level in coming years. The protesters, funded by the Service Employees International Union, also are pressuring the company to let restaurant workers unionize.

“We’re coming to McDonald’s doorstep to tell the company and its shareholders it’s time workers shared in the company’s good fortune,” Angel Mitchell, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago, said in a statement from protest organizers. “We can’t wait any longer for $15/hour and union rights, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure our voices are heard.”

Shutting Down

In preparation for the disruptions, McDonald’s corporate employees were told to work from home on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We take seriously our role in helping strengthen communities,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb said in response to the demonstrations. “Every year, we and our franchisees separately employ hundreds of thousands of people, providing many with their very first job.”

Coping with labor costs will remain a challenge as McDonald’s executes a comeback under Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook. The company has reignited sales growth in the U.S. with all-day breakfast and value deals, such as offering two sandwiches for $5. Same-store sales rose 6.2 percent globally in the latest quarter.

Customer-satisfaction scores are up in the U.S., Easterbrook told shareholders at the meeting.

The company also named Enrique Hernandez Jr., 60, as non-executive chairman. Hernandez, the CEO of Inter-Con Security Systems Inc. and a McDonald’s board member since 1996, succeeds 86-year-old Andy McKenna, who announced his retirement in April.

While diners may be happier with the company, workers and union representatives are continuing their four-year-long campaign. Last year, McDonald’s raised wages at its U.S. company-owned stores to at least $1 above the local minimum wage. The company also started offering vacation benefits. But the changes didn’t apply to franchised locations, which account for about 90 percent of its domestic restaurants.

Workers who prepare and serve food in the U.S. earn a median wage of $9.09 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While that amounts to $18,910 annually, many make less because they don’t work 40 hours a week.

In 2012, a group called Fight for $15 began pressuring U.S. fast-food chains, especially McDonald’s. Since then, protests have been held across the U.S. and even internationally. The group has demonstrated at three consecutive McDonald’s annual meetings.

“McDonald’s low wages set the standard for employers across the economy,” Sepia Coleman, a home-care worker, said in Fight for $15’s statement about Thursday’s protest. “McDonald’s can afford to do better for workers.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE