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McDonald's headquarters shut as protesters demand $15 an hour

By
Andrew V. Pestano
For the third year in a row, the McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., was shut down in anticipation of planned protests -- seen here in 2015 -- demanding a wage increase to $15 per hour. The protest coincides with McDonald's annual shareholder's meeting. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
For the third year in a row, the McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., was shut down in anticipation of planned protests -- seen here in 2015 -- demanding a wage increase to $15 per hour. The protest coincides with McDonald's annual shareholder's meeting. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

OAK BROOK, Ill., May 26 (UPI) -- The worldwide headquarters of McDonald's in Oak Brook, Ill., was largely shut down on Wednesday as hundreds of protesters marched to demand higher wages.

Employees who work at the Chicago-area headquarters were told to work from home on Wednesday in anticipation of the planned protests, the third year in a row, ahead of McDonald's annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday.

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"Employees were strongly encouraged to work from home and the majority of them are taking advantage of the opportunity," McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb said.

McDonald's restaurant workers are seeking a $15-an hour minimum wage and increased benefits, including the right to unionize. The "Fight for $15" campaign began in 2012 and has contributed to increasing national dialogue over minimum wages. The effort is supported by the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million workers in the United States and Canada.

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"We really need to make more money," Antoinette Brown, 62, who works as a custodian, told the Chicago Tribune. "My husband is disabled, and it's hard to make it between his check and mine ... It shouldn't be harder now when I'm 62."

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Edward Rensi, a former McDonald's chief executive, warned that raising the minimum wage would increase the likelihood that such jobs will be replaced by automated robots.

"I guarantee you if a $15 minimum wage goes across the country you're going to see a job loss like you can't believe," Rensi, McDonald's CEO from 1991 to 1997, told Fox Business Network on Tuesday. "It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries."

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The World Economic Forum estimates that the rise in robotics and artificial intelligence will cause a net loss of 5.1 million jobs in the next five years.

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