May 30, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Chicago, Ill. – Fed up with low pay, wage theft and McDonald’s refusal to listen to them, McDonald’s employees from three-dozen cities marched on the company’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday morning May 22nd in Oak Brook, Ill. The march and rally came a day after 101 McDonald’s workers were arrested for taking over McDonald’s sprawling suburban campus outside of Chicago.
In all, more than 800 workers, clergy and community supporters marched on McDonald’s headquarters as the company’s shareholders meeting began. McDonald’s officials at the meeting said that fast-food jobs are first jobs for teens, but the protesting workers, mothers and fathers in their mid-20s and older, painted a very different picture.
“This isn't a starter job and I'm not a teenager,” said Ashona Osborne, a 22-year mother who earns $7.25 at a Pittsburgh McDonald’s. “This is my career, and I'm struggling to raise a family and provide for my son. That's not possible on $7.25. McDonald's needs to recognize that its workforce has changed. McDonald's should offer real opportunity, for workers and our families, and they should start by raising wages to $15/hour."
Chanting, “We Work, We Sweat, Put $15 on my Check,” the workers marched up to a police barricade and rallied at the entrance to the campus. They then marched down the street to right outside the building where the meeting was being held, overlooking a lake on the campus. As shareholders came out of the building and snapped photos, workers from Detroit started chanting, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho $7.40 Has Got to Go,” referring to their minimum wage salaries in Michigan. And workers from across the country shouted, “We Believe That We Can Win.”
Protests by workers on Wednesday and Thursday come as McDonald’s faces “more challenges than ever before.” Feeling increasing anger from shareholders, franchisees, customers and especially workers, McDonald’s barred reporters from attending this year’s annual meeting. USA Today described the protests as a “public relations minefield” for a company that "spends billions painting an image of smiles and fun.” Yet despite mounting pressure, McDonald’s refuses to act, holding on to the decades-old notion that its workers are teenagers looking for pocket change – rather than adults struggling to raise families.
"I've been working for McDonalds for 10 years and my hourly paycheck is the same now as it was my first day on the job: $7.35,” said Cherri Delisline, a mother of four from Charleston, SC. “McDonald’s can keep on saying that we are teenagers, but saying it over and over again doesn’t make it true.”
Research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows 70 percent of fast-food workers are 20 and older, one quarter are raising children, and more than 30 percent have had at least some college education. As McDonald’s U.S. sales are slumping, the company is facing growing criticism from both customers and franchisees. A recent Harris poll found that McDonald’s reputation among customers fell sharply, and surveys show that a majority of franchise owners are upset with the company, describing their relationship as “poor” and giving McDonald’s the lowest ratings it’s seen in 12 years. Even so, McDonald’s made nearly $5.6 billion in profits last year.
A campaign that started in New York City in November 2012, fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation, has since spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country, and now around the world.