The roughly 2,000 protesters, which includes around 325 McDonald's workers in restaurant uniforms, have been protesting outside the restaurant chain's Oak Brook headquarters, demanding higher wages and the right to form a union. Around 110 protesters were detained, including McDonald's employees and some labor and clergy members.
"We need to show McDonald's that we're serious and that we're not backing down," said Jessica Davis, a 25-year-old McDonald's crew trainer.
Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for the company, said Wednesday that the protesters had the right to demonstrate peacefully, but that the company was "focused on welcoming our shareholders."
Sa Shekhem added that most of the 3,200 employees who work at the Oak Brook office were asked to work from home in anticipation of the protests. The headquarters even closed one of its five buildings.
The 2,000 protesters were seen storming the McDonald's campus carrying signs that read: "We Are Worth More" and "My Union My Voice," after which some of them were arrested for trespassing. The protesters were joined by the Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and William Barber, a NAACP official. Henry was one of the protesters arrested by the police.
"The closing reflects McDonald's refusal to address the growing concerns of workers and failure to take action to raise wages," Deivid Rojas, communications director for the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, said in a statement.
The WOCC was one of the first organizations to build support in 2012 to raise fast-food and retail employees' wages, which has since seen multiple protests in the U.S. and across the world. Many of these protests have been financially backed by the SEIU.
Many consider these efforts to be the stimulus that has seen President Barack Obama push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25.
Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the fact that employees were willing to travel to Oak Brook and get arrested shows that the movement is getting stronger.
He added that the upcoming election season creates the perfect stage for these protests to grow.
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