McDonald's workers protest low wages as shareholders weigh executive pay

Wed May 21, 2014 3:37pm EDT

A newly constructed McDonald's restaurant is pictured in Encinitas, California January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A newly constructed McDonald's restaurant is pictured in Encinitas, California January 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Hundreds of low-wage McDonald's workers protested near the fast-food chain's headquarters on Wednesday calling for a significant pay hike as shareholders prepare to weigh in on the company's executive compensation.

The McDonald's workers are calling for roughly a doubling of pay to $15 per hour and the right to unionize. Their frequent rallies have helped fuel a national debate on pay inequality at a time when many middle- to low-income Americans have curtailed spending to help make ends meet.

The latest, and possibly largest, protest against the world's biggest fast-food company comes a day ahead of an investor vote on executive pay at McDonald's Corp (MCD.N), where Chief Executive Don Thompson took home total compensation of $9.5 million in 2013.

Jessica Davis, a 25-year-old McDonald's crew trainer with two children, said CEO Thompson is earning his millions on the backs of working mothers and fathers.

Davis, who works at a Chicago McDonald's, says she earns $8.98 per hour and works part-time despite requests for more hours.

"We need to show McDonald's that we're serious and that we're not backing down," said Davis, who joined Wednesday's protest, which was moved to an area near the planned shareholder meeting location after the company closed the headquarters building near Chicago targeted by protesters following a police consultation.

McDonald's, which is grappling with sagging U.S. sales and profit-crimping beef price spikes, does not disclose average pay for restaurant workers, most of whom work for franchisees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 3.5 million fast-food and counter workers in the United States earn a median hourly wage of $8.83, or almost $18,400 per year based on a 40-hour work week without vacation.

A recent report from New York think tank Demos found that the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio for the fast food industry was more than 1,000-to-1 in 2013.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N) shareholders, in a non-binding vote, on May 15 voted more than 3-to-1 against the advisory pay proposal from the popular burrito seller, which gave co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran total 2013 compensation of $25.1 million and $24.4 million, respectively.

Thus far, public pension fund managers from New York City, Connecticut and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) have said they plan to vote against the McDonald's advisory measure on executive pay.

The measure asks shareholders to vote on the way the company formulates compensation for its executives.

Officials of the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the Florida State Board of Administration said they would vote in support of the measure.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pushed Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25 currently.

Washington, D.C. and 21 states have minimum wages higher than the federal level, and 38 states have considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

(Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston,; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Andrew Hay)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (4)
ELVEGO wrote:
Workers at MacD don’t realize that they are lucky to have a job, and that instead of protesting, they might try to do a better job. They are so busy protesting and looking into someone else’s pocket that they may actually succeed in raising their minimum wage. But this may unfortunately also result in major job cuts, so that then they won’t have a job to protest about.

I wish that I had the time to protest, although I would probably use it for something more constructive.

May 21, 2014 4:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SoutherRican wrote:
Yes increase the wages, we the public can’t wait for that $20 Big Mac, and $5.00 for the small fries. What But I do find it interesting that MickyD’s has funds to redo their facades, but not for their employees.

May 21, 2014 6:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
lphock wrote:
Surprised hourly wages that low at US McDs. This can’t commensurate with cost of living in US.

May 21, 2014 10:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.