Thousands of demonstrators staging a peaceful protest at the McDonald's headquarters were met by police in riot gear on Wednesday when the low-wage fast food workers and their supporters stormed the Illinois campus to say: "Make our Wage Supersize!"
The protest was held on the eve of the fast food giant's annual shareholder meeting at the company's corporate campus outside Chicago, during which activist shareholders are expected to vote against CEO Donald Thompson’s $9.5m pay package, the Guardian reports. Protesters are also planning to picket that meeting.
"We went on strike, we protested, we asked politely and now we got arrested to make sure McDonald’s hears us,” said Ashona Osborne, a McDonald’s employee from Pittsburgh who was one of the 101 people arrested at the demonstration. “I came to McDonald’s shareholders meeting because I want the company to take me seriously and know that I'm a mother who is sick of struggling to support her son."
Two thousand people from cities across the United States marched onto the campus chanting, "Hey McDonald’s You Can’t Hide, We Can See Your Greedy Side,” and “No Big Macs, No Fries, Make our Wage Supersize,” before holding sit-in, blocking the entrance. As they marched deeper into the campus the protesters were met by a line of police officers in riot gear.
The Associated Press reports:
Down the street from Hamburger University, dozens of police officers in riot gear warned protesters that they would be arrested if they didn't disperse. Demonstrators lined up to cross a barricade, after which they were arrested and their wrists tied in the plastic restraints. Among those arrested was Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has more than 2 million members.
According to reports, McDonald's sent workers home early and closed a portion of its sprawling campus after first learning of the planned protest.
The demonstration, organized by the workers rights campaigns Fight for 15 and Low Pay is Not OK, is the latest action by low-wage workers who are asking to have their wages raised to $15 an hour and for the right to form a union without retaliation.
"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. “It’s not okay for McDonald’s to rake in huge profits but pay us so little we can't support our families. I went on strike and now I got arrested and I will continue to protest until McDonald’s listens.”
Last month, the Demos think tank published a study which revealed that the fast food industry has the greatest CEO-to-worker pay disparity in the U.S. economy.
Demonstrators shared pictures of the protest and arrests on Twitter: