With thousands of workers planning to descend on McDonald's annual shareholder meeting on May 21 to demand higher wages and fairer treatment, the fast food giant has announced it will ban all media from the corporate event—a move that union leaders called "extremely shocking and troubling."
"We can't think of a single other company who has dared to ban the press from an annual meeting," the AFL-CIO told the Guardian on Monday. "What does the company have to hide?"
"We call on McDonald’s to reverse their decision and allow the media," Vineeta Anand, the AFL-CIO chief investment research analyst, told the Guardian. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant, when you shine a light on a company it changes their behaviour. They are acting like some sort of secret society."
"McDonald's is not an insignificant company, they are one of the nation's best-known household names and it is extremely shocking and troubling that a company of its size would ban the press," Anand added.
Reporters will only be able to watch the event via livestream. The company has previously banned media from its shareholder meetings, but this year's decision is unusual because it was ordered by McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, who has previously said he wants to reshape the corporation into a "modern, progressive burger company."
A McDonald's spokesperson, Heidi Baker, said the move was not done as a response to the upcoming Fight for $15 demonstrations, but to "accommodate our valued shareholders."
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Yet when contacted for comment, many of those shareholders responded to that excuse with a resounding, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Timothy Smith, director of governance and shareholder engagement at Walden Asset Management, which holds $21m of McDonald’s shares, told the Guardian, "Since McDonald’s proudly declares it believes it must be accountable to consumers, employees and the public as well as shareholders, it is surprising that they wish to hold their annual meeting in secret without press allowed to observe."
As Common Dreams has previously reported, workers have planned for weeks to converge at the shareholder meeting and call on McDonald's to reform its exploitative policies.
"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," Adriana Alvarez, who has worked at McDonald's for five years and was one of 101 workers arrested at a peaceful sit-in at last year's shareholder meeting, said earlier this month.
Rev. Dwayne Grant, pastor at Greater Englewood United Methodist Church in Chicago, added, "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."