When McDonald’s begins its annual shareholders’ meeting at its headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, Thursday morning, it is expected to be targeted by protesters seeking a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize. In recent months, the American fast food giant and its franchisees have increasingly faced accusations of underpaying workers and wage theft.
“McDonald’s profits keep growing while their workers struggle. People who work full time should never have to rely on food stamps to feed themselves and their families,” the Fight For $15 movement, which announced the start of protests in Chicago Tuesday, said in a statement posted on its website. “It’s wrong for a company whose stock just hit an all-time high to pay wages so low that its workers have to rely on public assistance to scrape by. McDonald’s profits in the first quarter rose 35% — it’s time for the company to share its good fortune with its workers.”
— Raise Up For $15 (@RaiseUpfor15) May 25, 2016
The group, which is backed by unions, also announced that it would kick off a two-day protest at the company’s headquarters in Chicago.
“Underpaid workers from across the service sector – joined by McDonald’s workers from five countries spanning three continents – will demand that McDonald’s use its global economic footprint to lift up working families across the economy rather than hold them down,” the movement said in the statement.
The federal minimum wage in the U.S. has remained stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Although several states have, over the past four years, raised minimum wages to $15 an hour, 1.3 million people still earned only $7.25 an hour in 2014 while another 1.7 million had wages below the federal minimum.
Last year, McDonald’s raised its average hourly wage of its American workers to about $10 an hour and began offering paid vacations and other benefits. However, the wage increase does not apply to those employed by franchisees — which account for nearly 90 percent of the company’s American stores.
“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries — it’s nonsense and it’s very destructive and it’s inflationary and it’s going to cause a job loss across this country like you’re not going to believe,” former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi said Tuesday during an interview with FOX Business. “It’s not just going to be in the fast food business. Franchising is the best business model in the United States. It’s dependent on people that have low job skills that have to grow. Well if you can’t get people a reasonable wage, you’re going to get machines to do the work. It’s just common sense.”