Between 1,000 and 2,000 McDonald’s employees and labor rights supporters flooded McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., on Wednesday, just hours before the company’s annual shareholders meeting. Chanting slogans such as “No Big Macs, No Fries, Make Our Wage Supersize,” the protestors called for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize.
But as they entered the corporate campus, marchers were met with officers in riot gear. When police orders for the crowd to disperse were ignored, protestors began to be arrested. One hundred and one McDonald’s employees were taken into custody for criminal trespass, along with more than three dozen labor activists and community leaders.
This came only a week after fast-food workers in approximately 150 U.S. cities and more than 30 countries walked off the job, bringing service at least temporarily to a halt in various fast-food restaurants across the nation from Oakland to Philadelphia. Workers are making it clear to the fast-food giants that this issue will not be going away.
Cherri Delisline, one of the workers who was arrested on Wednesday (and a mother of four), said:
I’ve been working at McDonald’s for 10 years, and my hourly paycheck is the same now as it was my first day on the job: $7.35. It’s not okay for McDonald’s to rake in huge profits but pay us so little we can’t support our families.
McDonald’s is facing increasing demands from shareholders, customers and workers to give its employees liveable wages—and so much criticism for its policies that the corporation barred reporters from its shareholders’ meeting this year. The pressure has been building since November of 2012 when the first of a series of fast-food workers’ strikes began in New York City.
Despite the uproar, the company has refused to budge in its wage policies, instead expecting workers to take second jobs in order to make ends meet, to take small bites of food to avoid hunger and to apply for food stamps to feed their families (meaning that taxpayers subsidize these low wages with public assistance to the tune of $1.2 billion a year). All this from a company that brought in $5.6 billion in profits last year.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, who led the march onto McDonald’s headquarters yesterday and is the leader of North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests, said:
We can’t treat corporations like people, and people like things. A living wage is a moral mandate, and it’s time for McDonald’s to pay fast-food workers their just due now.
Photo of McDonald’s headquarters protest from Twitter user @chrisdilts
Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.