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Protesters disrupt a hedge fund meeting on Monday to push for higher wages for restaurant workers. (Photo: Fortune)

Protesters Slam Wall Street Elites for Profiting Off 'Misery of Workers'

'Hedge Clippers' target conference to call on hedge fund investors to help end 'poverty wages'

Nadia Prupis

A union-supported activist group known as the Hedge Clippers disrupted a hedge fund conference in Manhattan on Monday to call out financial investors they say support poverty wages.

The Hedge Clippers describe themselves as "working to expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politics in order to expand their wealth, influence and power."

Roughly 20 protesters entered the main room of the Active-Passive Investor Summit, where a panel on shareholder activists was taking place, and marched in front of the stage for about 20 minutes, chanting, "Hedge fund billionaires, pay your fair share!"

"Bill Ackman, show me $15!" the protesters shouted, referring to the billionaire founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital, who was not present during the panel. 

Hedge Clippers spokesperson Charles Kahn told USA Today that the group targeted Ackman specifically—along with Jeffrey Smith of Starboard Group and Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners—because of their investments in fast food chains McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, as well as Darden Restaurants, which owns several dining franchises, including the Olive Garden.

Protesters also carried signs that read, "Dignity at Darden. No poverty wages."

"So many people are making money, literally, on the misery of workers," Kahn added.

Hedge Clippers last week released a report on the influence of a set of investors on the fast food industry, who the activists say "use franchising to extract maximum profit from fast food workers and to keep wages as low as possible."

Peltz and Ackman, along with Edward Garden of Trian and Larry Robbins of Glenview Capital, "have made massive fortunes from investing in fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's.... [and] Jeffrey Smith is trying to replicate their efforts at Darden Restaurants by cutting labor costs, even as the company is already reportedly linked to slave labor in Burma," reads the report, titled Hedge Funds and the Fast Food Economy: How Supersized Profits Are Made From Franchising.

The Hedge Clippers were recently profiled by the New York Times after the organization staged several protests in New York aimed at exposing the influence of hedge fund money on education politics and other issues. "If you’re a home health aide making $11 an hour, you have probably let your subscription to Vanity Fair lapse," wrote Times reporter Ginia Bellafante. "The Hedge Clippers will accomplish a great deal if they can simply turn the secretive few into the widely infamous."

Monday's protest came ahead of a national day of action planned for Wednesday by the Fight for $15 movement.

The demonstration reportedly broke up after threat of police action. Following their dispersal, Hedge Clippers wrote on Twitter, "After our visit Jeff Smith decided to do his #13dConference presentation off the record. Hope the truth isn't making him uncomfortable."

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