As McDonald’s Announces ‘Turnaround Plan’ to Boost Flagging Sales, Golden Arches Cooks and Cashiers Vow Largest-Ever Protest at Company’s Shareholder Meeting

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As McDonald’s Announces ‘Turnaround Plan’ to Boost Flagging Sales, Golden Arches Cooks and Cashiers Vow Largest-Ever Protest at Company’s Shareholder Meeting

WASHINGTON - McDonald’s workers announced via video Monday that thousands of cooks and cashiers will travel to Oak Brook later this month to lead the biggest protest ever to hit the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Armed with 1 million signatures from everyday Americans calling on McDonald’s to pay workers $15 an hour and respect their freedom to join together in a union, the cooks and cashiers will hold a series of protests leading up to and during the annual meeting. Fed up with pay that drives them to rely on public assistance to support their families (costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year) and angry over the company’s recent 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.

“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,” said Adriana Alvarez, who has worked at McDonald’s for five years, but is paid so little that she needs food stamps, child care subsidies and Medicaid to support her three-year-old son, Manny. “I should be able to afford to buy my son the milk he needs to grow up healthy, but that’s impossible on what McDonald’s pays me.”

Alvarez was one of 101 McDonald’s workers arrested during a peaceful sit-in at last year’s shareholder meeting. The Chicago mom and her McDonald’s colleagues will be joined at the protests by clergy from across the country, including the Rev. William Barber II, convener of the Moral Mondays movement and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC.

“The fight by fast-food workers for fair pay on the job is a continuation of the moral movement for economic justice that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started 50 years ago,” said Rev. Dwayne Grant, Pastor at Greater Englewood United Methodist Church in Chicago. “We need to put an end to corporations raking in billions while their employees are forced to skip meals. We are fighting to build a country where people who work hard are paid enough to survive.”

In addition to slumping sales, McDonald’s approaches its 2015 shareholder meeting facing a host of business challenges at home and abroad.

In the United States, the federal government is accusing the fast-food giant of rampant labor-law violations, and is arguing that the corporate parent, not just franchisees, are responsible for the illegal actions. McDonald’s workers in three states filed class action lawsuits alleging wage theft and cooks and cashiers filed a federal civil rights suit alleging rampant racial discrimination at stores in Virginia.  Workers also filed more than two-dozen complaints in 19 cities with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging McDonald’s workers are being burned on the job, with many told to use condiments like mustard to ease the pain. Meanwhile, scrutiny is increasing on the public cost of the company’s low wages.

Overseas, McDonald's is being accused by a coalition of trade unions and the UK-based NGO War on Want of avoiding more than €1 billion in taxes over the last five years. The European Commission’s Directorate of Competition launched a preliminary investigation to find out whether McDonald’s entered into an illegal deal with Luxembourg that allowed it to avoid taxes.

In Brazil, a coalition of trade unions has filed two lawsuits accusing the company of widespread and systematic labor and health and safety violations. One of the suits accuses McDonald’s of “social dumping,” an anti-competitive practice that drives standards down for workers across the country, and seeks to prevent the company from opening new stores unless it complies with Brazilian law. Also, McDonald’s agent in Latin America and the Caribbean, Arcos Dorados, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, with an investor group asking the New York Stock Exchange to review the company’s corporate governance. And in Japan, an investor group is calling on McDonald’s Japan to dismiss internal directors and replace them with external ones.

The shareholder meeting comes in the aftermath of the largest-ever strike to hit the fast-food industry—a 236-city walkout in every corner of the United States that included strikes and protests in 40 countries and 100 cities around the globe, from Amsterdam to Zurich.

It’s not only workers who feel that they’re treated unfairly by McDonald’s. A recent survey of McDonald’s franchisees by Janney Capital Markets found record-low confidence among Golden Arches franchisees, with the vast majority describing their relationship with the company as “poor.” And on Thursday, a poll revealed that a majority of franchisees believe they cannot earn a decent living from their businesses. Franchisees and workers said Thursday that they would work together nationwide to reform the $800 billion franchising sector and bring balance back into the industry.

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