Media banned from McDonald’s AGM
Fast-food giant McDonald’s has announced it will not admit any member of the media to attend its AGM later this month, amid a growing protest over ‘poverty wages’ paid to its restaurant staff.
Employees of the company are said to be planning an enormous protest for the event, scheduled for May 21, 2015, to draw attention to the low wages paid to many of its 420,000 staff in the US.
A union-backed protest group, called Fight for $15, has said it will picket the company’s Chicago headquarters in order to improve conditions for workers who are currently paid $9.90 an hour – pay that Fight for $15 describes as ‘poverty wages’.
‘Fed up with pay that drives them to rely on public assistance to support their families and angry over the publicity stunt disguised as a wage increase, McDonald’s workers will insist the fast-food giant include in its turnaround plan a serious investment in the cooks and cashiers who make its billions in profits possible,’ reads a statement from the movement.
The Guardian newspaper adds that, after asking for permission to report from the upcoming AGM, its reporters were told they would be prevented from entering. ‘We will not be hosting media inside the meeting,’ says Heidi Baker, a representative of McDonald’s. ‘Media are invited to listen to the meeting via webcast.’
Several of the company’s largest shareholders have reacted to the announcement with suspicion. Vineeta Anand, chief investment research analyst for AFL-CIO, which holds $30 mn worth of McDonald’s shares, told the Guardian it makes her wonder what the company has to hide. ‘We call on McDonald’s to reverse its decision and allow the media,’ she adds. ‘Sunshine is the best disinfectant: when you shine a light on a company, it changes its behavior. It is acting like some sort of secret society.’
Steve Easterbrook, the new president and CEO of McDonald’s, has yet to comment on the announcement. He told investors earlier this month via an online video that he was aiming to turn the firm into a ‘modern, progressive burger company’, as well as suggesting that McDonald’s needed to be more ‘progressive’ and maintain its ‘social values’. He did not, however, directly address worker pay.
As part of its first quarter earnings this year, McDonald’s reported a slight decrease in worldwide sales, leading to a drop in global comparable sales of 2.3 percent and revenues falling by 11 percent. The restaurant operator still managed to return $1.4 bn to shareholders, however, through dividends and buybacks.