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Fast-food workers target McDonald's headquarters

'Busloads' of workers continue quest for better pay and working conditions

More than 100 McDonald's workers were arrested after staging a sit-in and blocking the entrance to the company's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, a day before the McDonald's annual shareholders meeting, according to labor activists.

The move comes days after unions worldwide joined forces to ask for better pay and working conditions at the fast-food chain. 

Kendall Fells, leader of Fast Food Forward, said the action would force executives to “look their employees in the eye,” while workers could “tell them in their faces that they’re sick and tired of living in poverty.” This time, Fells said, the workers were prepared to stay put “until they are heard.”

Chanting “Hey McDonald’s, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side,” and “No Big Macs, no fries, make our wage Supersize,” the workers marched onto the McDonald’s campus, where police officers arrested 101 workers who ignored their order to disperse, according to a statement from Fast Food Forward.

McDonald’s employee Adriana Alvarez, 21, said she joined Wednesday’s action to show that "it’s really hard to live off her wages as a single mother."

Alvarez said, "We’re tired of it. We’re at a tipping point. We’re done.”

Studies show that more than two-thirds of low-income workers are women.

Wednesday’s protests will surely heighten McDonald’s concerns that ongoing labor unrest and public perception of poor working conditions pose a risk to shareholders’ value, as mentioned it the corporation’s 2013 annual report.

“We respect everyone’s rights to peacefully protest,” said McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey. “We are focused on welcoming our shareholders to McDonald’s annual meeting.”

The National Restaurant Association, a trade lobby for the restaurant industry, that said the protests, backed by the IUF, a global trade union, are used to push other goals.

“These union-backed protests are nothing more than big labor’s attempt to push their own agenda while attacking an industry that provides opportunity to millions of Americans,” Scott DeFife, an executive vice president at the NRA said in a statement regarding the May 15 global fast-food protest.

Edward Ott, a lecturer in labor studies at the City University of New York and retired union leader, said activists have moved beyond the tactic of “distributing leaflets in subway stations.” He praised the strategist’s efforts on Wednesday to keep their message in the public eye. 

“I think it’s a great tactic,” he said. “Civil disobedience is a passive, nonviolent way to get your issues out there and let people know about them."

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