Labour activists seeking $15-an-hour wages marched on McDonald’s headquarters on Wednesday, marking the second straight year of protests ahead of the fast-food chain’s annual meeting.
The event closed down streets in McDonald’s hometown of Oak Brook, Illinois, with local police estimating the number of demonstrators at about 2,000. The rally’s organizers said the crowd reached 5,000 and included McDonald’s cooks and cashiers.
Heidi Barker, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said that very few of the company’s workers participated in the demonstration. The fast-food chain, which will hold its shareholder meeting on Thursday, described the event as part of an $80 million publicity campaign backed by the Service Employees International Union.
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A group called Fight for $15 began putting pressure on fast-food chains to raise wages and allow workers to unionize in 2012. Though McDonald’s plans to boost pay at some stores, labour activists have described the move as inadequate, saying workers are paid so little that they have to subsist on public assistance.
McDonald’s announced plans in April to increase pay at U.S. company-owned stores by at least $1 above the local minimum wage. The company also will begin offering vacation benefits as part of the plan, which takes effect on 1 July.
“The union has spent its members’ dues money in the past two years attacking the McDonald’s brand, and the independent business men and women who own 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants, in an unsuccessful attempt to unionize workers,” Barker said in a statement.
Demonstrators plan to return to Oak Brook on Thursday to deliver more than 1 million signatures calling for $15-an-hour pay.
Bloomberg News, edited by Hospitality Ireland