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updated: 5/22/2014 8:46 AM

138 people arrested at McDonald's campus protest

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  • Video: Wage Protest at McDonald's HQ

  • Oak Brook Police Cmdr. Jeff Weber gives protesters a warning of arrest if they walk on the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.

       Oak Brook Police Cmdr. Jeff Weber gives protesters a warning of arrest if they walk on the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Protesters walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.

       Protesters walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Police arrest a protester at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.

       Police arrest a protester at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Police arrest a protester at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.

       Police arrest a protester at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comProtesters confront police at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.

      Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comProtesters confront police at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday.

  • Police stop protesters as they walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday. They marched onto the property to call for worker wages of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

       Police stop protesters as they walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday. They marched onto the property to call for worker wages of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Protesters walk down Jorie Boulevard past the McDonald's campus in Oak Brook to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.

       Protesters walk down Jorie Boulevard past the McDonald's campus in Oak Brook to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Police stop protesters as they walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday. They marched onto the property to call for worker wages of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

       Police stop protesters as they walk onto the property at McDonald's campus in Oak Brook on Wednesday. They marched onto the property to call for worker wages of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Protesters walk down Jorie Boulevard past the McDonald's campus in Oak Brook to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.

       Protesters walk down Jorie Boulevard past the McDonald's campus in Oak Brook to call for worker wages of $15 an hour.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The McDonald's headquarters also includes Hamburger University in Oak Brook

      The McDonald's headquarters also includes Hamburger University in Oak Brook
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook

      McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
 

Nearly 140 people were arrested Wednesday when a protest about wages became heated at the McDonald's Corp. headquarters in Oak Brook, said Oak Brook police.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 protesters stormed the McDonald's campus in the afternoon as Oak Brook police, dressed in riot gear and holding clubs, ordered them to disperse. When they didn't listen, many were placed on police buses and charged with criminal trespassing. In the end, 138 were arrested.

Those arrested were later released and are expected to appear in court and face a fine, said police spokesman and officer George Peterson.

McDonald's employees are asking for their pay to nearly double to $15 per hour and for the ability to form a union without retaliation.

Minimum wage has been a hot political issue both statewide and nationally. President Barack Obama has been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which translates to about $15,000 a year, assuming a person works 40 hours a week. Illinois' minimum wage is $8.25 an hour.

Wages at all of the hamburger fast food restaurants are not the same, the company said.

"About 90 percent of our restaurants are franchised and run by owners of small- and medium-sized businesses who set their wages at their own restaurants," McDonald's spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said. "It very well could increase over time, but that was up to Capitol Hill, so we'll see what happens in the coming year."

The protest Wednesday, possibly the largest against the global chain, came a day before McDonald's annual shareholder meeting, which will go on as scheduled today.

Wages are one of the topics expected to be addressed at the annual meeting, where about 400 stockholders and company executives also will look at executive pay packages and marketing to children and minority communities.

Shareholder meetings offer the public a rare chance to confront top executives at major publicly traded companies. The meetings are attended by public pension fund managers, activist groups and religious organizations seeking to change corporate practices.

Companies vary in how they run their meetings. This year, McDonald's decided to not allow the media to attend in person. As in the past, the event is being webcast.

Although other fast food chains, such as Burger King and Taco Bell, use many of the same practices, McDonald's is a frequent target for critics because of its size and high profile.

In a statement, the company said it respects "everyone's right to peacefully protest." Later, Barker Sa Shekhem called the protest "very much a staged event" and said most of those who turned out weren't McDonald's workers.

Earlier Wednesday, protesters arrived at the corporate headquarters on 32 buses, armed with signs and bullhorns. They railed about how McDonald's is paying workers wages that are too low and demanded $15 per hour as they marched from Jorie Boulevard and Kroc Drive and onto the campus.

The group said in a statement that restaurant workers have held strikes and protests about six times in the last 18 months to challenge the company's median wage of $8.94 per hour.

The most recent protest is a preview of what the group said it plans for today's stockholders meeting.

Barker said the company Wednesday "adjusted work schedules" of some employees at the corporate headquarters in anticipation of the protest. One corporate building near the site of the protest was closed, and its nearly 2,000 employees and consultants were asked to work remotely. Another four campus buildings remained open with about 1,500 workers, Barker Sa Shekhem said.

The annual stockholders meeting has long been the target of many groups seeking attention for their causes, including one in 2009 where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested over the treatment of animals killed and processed for menu items.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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