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McDonald’s workers will gatecrash the burger company’s shareholder meeting later this month with “the biggest ever protest” demanding an end to “poverty wages” paid to many of its 420,000 staff.
As the company announced plans to turn around its ailing business, Fight for $15, a union-backed protest group, set out plans for a day of protest at the company’s Chicago headquarters.
“Fed up with pay that drives them to rely on public assistance to support their families and angry over the publicity stunt disguised as a wage increase, McDonald’s workers will insist that the fast-food giant include in its turnaround plan a serious investment in the cooks and cashiers who make its billions in profits possible,” Fight for 15 said in a statement on Monday.
The workers, who organised protests in cities across the US last month calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage, said they “would not be coming alone” to McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting on 21 May but would be “armed with 1m signatures from everyday Americans calling on McDonald’s to pay workers $15 an hour and respect their freedom to join together in a union”.
Adriana Alvarez, one of 101 McDonald’s workers arrested during a protest at McDonald’s shareholder meeting last year, said: “We may not have a seat in the room, but we’re sure that McDonald’s will hear us when we say that its turnaround needs to include investment in and respect for its employees.”
Alvarez, who has worked at McDonald’s for five years, said she is paid so little that she needs food stamps and Medicaid to care for her three-year-old son, Manny.
“I can’t pay my bills and support my son off the poverty wages that I make. That is why I am here fighting for $15 an hour – and union rights,” she said in a video message released on Monday as McDonald’s new chief executive announced his plan to turn around the company, which is rapidly losing customers.
Alvarez said she and her colleagues had decided to gatecrash McDonald’s annual meeting at its headquarters on the outskirts of Chicago because “that’s where they decided what to do with their money.”
“We’ve worked hard and we’ve walked a long path to get here,” she said. “Now it’s time for McDonald’s to make the right choice – to do the right thing for their workers.”
As part of his plans to revitalise the company, the new president and CEO, Steve Easterbrook, said on Monday that he was aiming to turn McDonald’s into a “modern, progressive burger company.”
Easterbrook did not directly address the wages McDonald’s pays to its workers in his own video address on Monday, but he did say that McDonald’s needed to be more “progressive” and address the company’s “social values”.
Easterbrook later told the Guardian that being “progressive” meant the company offered “compelling pay” for its staff. He said McDonald’s had made “really purposeful commitments” on pay, training and benefits.
Within weeks of taking over as chief executive earlier this month, Easterbrook announced plans to increase its US staff’s minimum wage to $9.90, from the current average hourly wage of $9.01. The Fight for 15 movement dismissed this as not enough.
This article was written by Rupert Neate in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th May 2015 18.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010