The sylvan silence of McDonald’s suburban Chicago corporate headquarters provides executives of the world’s largest fast-food corporation a retreat far from its 860,000 U.S. workers—who face a schedule of days defined by sizzling grease, fast-paced work and low wages.
But on the eve of the company’s May 22 annual meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, well over 1,500 chanting, singing and sign-waving McDonald’s employees and their supporters brought the reality of fast food work to the front steps of the wooded corporate retreat. The marchers, reflecting an amalgam of labor and civil rights cultures, chanted that they were “the mighty, mighty union,” and sang “We Shall Overcome.” North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber, whose “Moral Mondays” demonstrations have strengthened that state’s labor-civil rights alliance, joined the march, symbolizing the recent growth of local low-wage, fast food worker movements in the South. [...]
Growing public discontent with economic inequality has made fast food executive pay a vulnerable target and given protesting workers increased leverage with the corporation. According to a report from Demos, a New York-based think tank, the greatest disparity between CEO and worker pay exists in the accommodation and food services industry, with fast-food operations like McDonald’s acting as “a major driver of large scale pay disparity.” It calculated that since 2012, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay has been more than 1,000 to 1, roughly double that of other industries.