McDonald’s Forced to Close Part of Corporate Headquarters in Chicago Due to Protesters

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McDonald’s closed part of its corporate headquarters in Chicago on Wednesday in response to a mass protest planned by workers and activists calling for a hike in the minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.

Over 2,000 people calling for a hike in the minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation descended on the fast food giant’s suburban Chicago headquarters in what is believed to be the largest demonstration McDonald’s has ever faced.

Chanting, “Hey, McDonald’s, you can’t hide; we can see your greedy side,” and “No Big Macs, no fries, make our wage supersize,” protesters blocked the entrance to McDonald’s campus in Oakbrook, some 20 miles outside Chicago.

A short walk from Hamburger University, McDonald’s training center, the protesters were confronted by a phalanx of police officers in riot gear. After they sat down, the police issued two orders to disperse and arrests began.

McDonald’s workers, church leaders and Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry were among those arrested.

Some 500 fast food workers from three dozen cities as well as local church groups, union activists and community groups were present at the demonstration. It came a day before the fast food company’s annual meeting when dissident shareholders intend to vote against CEO Donald Thompson’s $9.5 million pay package. Protesters also plan to picket that meeting, from which media have been excluded.

Activists said the company feared a “public relations minefield” and sent workers home in order to derail the protest. Protesters planned to move their demonstration to another nearby McDonald’s corporate facility.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the company made the decision to close a building on its campus that holds 2,000 staff members after consulting with police. The building was close to a busy intersection and the company was concerned about the disruption the protesters could cause to traffic. She said staff members continued to work from home.

Restaurant and retail workers are calling for a minimum wage of $15 per hour. The latest protest is one of a series aimed at fueling a national debate on income inequality and comes after a report from the Demos think-tank showed that fast food companies had the largest gap between the pay of CEOs and workers of any industry. The report found that the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio for the fast food industry was more than 1,000-to-1 in 2013.

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