Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 04:35 a.m. DST, 22 May 2014
OAK BROOK, Illinois -- Yesterday, 21 May 2014, over 1,000 people protested against the McDonald's corporation at their corporate headquarters, located in suburban Chicago. The peaceful demonstration was the second attempt to bring attention to wage inequality in the internationally known, globally recognized food chain.
The localized protests are part of a larger international campaign to raise awareness of poverty wages and the role that fast-food giants play in the servitude.
The movement is taking place throughout 33 different countries, where McDonald's and other restaurant "whoppers" like Burger King, KFC and Wendy's have uniquely tailored menus and strong market footholds. Hundreds of McDonald's employees came to the rally in Oak Brook wearing their uniforms, some of whom boycotted shifts to participate.
The concept of a wage hike is nothing new to CEO Donald Thomson, whose earnings have seen a steady appreciation in recent years. He is expecting to earn $9.5 million next year. While executives count their pay increases in the hundreds of thousands, the average hands in the assembly line bring home a paycheck that is not even consistent with inflation.
Over 100 McDonald's employees were arrested and over 30 union members and spiritual leaders are in police custody after demonstrators occupied campus buildings yesterday. Headed by organizations such as Fast Food Forward and Service Employees International Union, the collective was relatively small but extremely vocal. The action was purposefully orchestrated one day before an important shareholder meeting, scheduled for today, 22 May, at the corporate offices. In anticipation, an entire branch of campus was encouraged to stay home and work remotely yesterday.
The day before the annual meeting proved to be an excellent platform for the collected grievances. Those with partial ownership of McDonald's will weigh in on Thomson's salary during the shareholder's meeting. His pay is over 600 times that of his average foodservice employee, which is not totally surprising. McDonald's is famous for their minuscule raise policies. They also supplement profits with various forms of wage theft.
These Illinois protests are just one voice in an international chorus of dissent. The similarities between Japanese, Indian and Brazilian strikes shows the vast subjugation that sustains the American-based restaurant machine.
In the past year, business tycoons and politicians have been critical of demands to raise the minimum wage in the United States. In the same vein, critics of the striking employees are calling the terms of the demonstration absurd. But, even the twofold increase to $15-an-hour would be below the living wage in the US, according to a breakdown by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The MIT Living Wage Calculator indicates the severity of the poverty that fast-food employees almost necessarily face. At $7.25-an-hour, an individual making minimum wage in New Orleans, Louisiana is earning well under the regional living wage of $10.51. In an expensive city like Washington, D.C. the minimum wage is set at $8.25. But the living wage for a one parent, one child household is $26.37, according to MIT statistics. The average McDonald's worker supporting one child in the District is not making even a third of the baseline living wage.
Notably, research indicates that more women are pigeonholed into poverty wages than male coworkers.
Opponents of the measure claim that increased wages will cause a decreased number of jobs. And by simple arithmetic, this may be true.
But so often, the rhetoric of corporate employers follows the notion that the company is creating job opportunities as if some sort of charity. Obviously, a business is not going to extend a job at the expense of the bottom line.
In reality, it is a give-and-take, as the corporation is only viable with hard-working men and women on the ground, and people need opportunities to make money. With McDonald's' lobbying effort to paralyze the minimum wage, and their ban on unions, the ideal "give-and-take" is actually veiled exploitation.
- McDonald's headquarters shut down (bbc.co.uk)
- Protesters Shut Down McDonald's HQ - And They'll Be Back on Thursday (blogs.wsj.com)
- McDonald's closes corporate HQ in Chicago as 2,000 protesters gather (theguardian.com)
- Protesters arrested in pay fight at McDonald's HQ (news.yahoo.com)
- McDonald's closes office as protests loom (money.cnn.com)