After marching to McDonald’s suburban Chicago campus Thursday morning, 10 protesters from a crowd of more than 1,000 were allowed on McDonald’s property to deliver a petition with more than 1 million signatures calling for $15-per-hour wages for the company’s front-line workers.
“We want a fair share,” workers chanted.
The latest union-backed protest came the morning of McDonald’s annual meeting with shareholders, which started at 9 a.m. and was largely peaceful. Shareholders peppered executives with questions about issues including what they call predatory marketing tactics, such as having Ronald McDonald appear at school functions.
“Ronald’s here to stay,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told shareholders.
Earlier, the 10 protestors delivering the petition spent about 30 minutes talking to company representatives who accepted the document.
Upon returning to the crowd, protesters clapped and wooed.
“We told our story. It was so amazing. It was powerful,” Adriana Alvarez, 23, told fellow protesters.
She said she told the men that workers need $15 and a union.
“We will be back,” protesters chanted.
Since joining the Fight for $15 campaign last year, Alvarez said her hourly wage at a McDonald’s in the Chicago area has jumped by $1.75 per hour, to $10.50.
However, the single mother of a 3-year-old boy said that as her wages increase, costs are also rising. For example, she said, Illinois state budget cuts affected a subsidy she receives for child care.
Keandra Guilmant of Minneapolis said she’s struggling to support her family and pay her bills on the $8.25 an hour she makes at McDonald’s.
“We deserve what we are fighting for,” Guilmant said.
McDonald’s called Thursday’s protest “the latest instance in an $80 million publicity campaign organized and paid for by the Service Employees International Union and its members. As has been the case in earlier protests, very few McDonald’s or independent franchisee employees are participating.”
The smaller protest follows a demonstration Wednesday with about 2,000 people, including McDonald’s workers from as far away as Kansas City, Mo., and New York City.
McDonald’s has been under consistent pressure to improve performance. Thursday’s annual meeting was the first under Easterbrook, who took the helm March 1. Easterbrook’s goal is to turn McDonald’s into a “modern, progressive burger company.”
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, on Wednesday called on McDonald’s to share more of its profits.
In addition to boosting pay at company-owned stores, McDonald’s has vowed to increase education benefits across all U.S. restaurants. Activists say the moves don’t go far enough. Fight for $15 is demanding raises across the chain.
Vivian Hardin, who works for Church’s Chicken in Atlanta, brought her 4-year-old son to the protest because she wants him to know she’s fighting for a better future. He walked quietly alongside his mother with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
McDonald’s also finds itself battling complaints of labor-law violations filed in state and federal courts and with federal agencies. SEIU alleges McDonald’s shares responsibility for employees with franchisees as a joint-employer.
The burger giant maintains that franchisees are independent owner-operators setting their own policies and wages while adhering to corporate standards on food preparation and restaurant design.
The movement’s push to increase wages has led to victories in cities including Chicago, which is raising its hourly minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 on July 1 and to $13 by mid-2019. On Tuesday, Los Angeles voted to increase its $9-per-hour minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
Felipe Mujica, 54, said he woke up at 4 a.m. Thursday to join the march. He said he’s worked at a McDonald’s in Chicago for 32 years and makes $8.95 per hour.
Mujica joined the Fight for $15 about six months ago. He said that this has been the first time in his life that he has felt motivated to speak up for better wages and working conditions, and that he is fueled by victories in other states, including this week’s decision in Los Angeles.