McDonald's Shareholders Are About to Get A Taste of Low Wage Work

May 25th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Thousands of low-wage workers descended on McDonald's' Oak Brook, Illinois headquarters on Wednesday, as part of what labor activists called the largest series of Fight for $15 protests ever.

Cooks and cashiers staged a strike at the company's flagship store in downtown Chicago Wednesday morning, kicking off a series of actions meant to raise awareness of low wages and a lack of union rights for millions of low wage workers nationwide.

Fight for $15 protester

Along with McDonald's and other fast-food service workers, home care, child care, and a host of other underpaid workers — estimated at about 10,000 in total — were protesting Wednesday. Labor activists said the company's annual shareholder meeting was a perfect opportunity to send a message to the company's higher ups.

"We're occupying their door steps so that they can't ignore us," Angel Mitchell, a 26-year-old McDonald's worker from Chicago, told ATTN:. "I'm sure they see us in the media, but today and tomorrow, they can't ignore us."

"Poverty wages — or McWages as we call them — are affecting a wide range of workers. We can't get things done and we're unhappy — our McJobs are costing us all," Mitchell added.

Moses Brooks Fight For 15

The protests are the latest salvo by low-wage workers against the fast food giant, which has in recent years bent to some demands of employees. Last year, the company announced wage hikes at its U.S. corporate-owned stores, bumping pay rates at least $1 above the local minimum wage.

About 90 percent of McDonald's stores are franchise locations, meaning a majority of the chain's employees' wages were not affected by the raises.

Fight for $15

Still, it's unclear how company heads will respond to workers' and labor activists' latest actions. McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, discussing healthy sales in an April conference call, cited wage hikes and improved benefit packages as a contributing factor.

"The improvements we made to our compensation and benefits package to employees in U.S.-company operated restaurants, along with expanding [the tuition assistance program] Archways to Opportunity ... have resulted in lower crew turnover and higher customer satisfaction scores," he said.

Fight for $15 demonstrators planned to camp out overnight in an effort to do as much as needed for McDonald's to hear their demands. In response, McDonald's spokesperson told ATTN: that its headquarters employees were working from home Wednesday and Thursday.

Fight for $15 occupiers

"At McDonald's, we take seriously our role in helping strengthen communities," company spokeswoman Lisa McComb, said in a statement. "Every year, we and our franchisees separately employ hundreds of thousands of people, providing many with their very first job."

According to the National Employment Law Project, since it began in late 2012, the Fight for $15 movement has spurred wage hikes for nearly 17 million workers nationwide as companies, cities, and states take steps to increase pay rates.