McDonald's CEO Insists Workers Are Paid 'Fair Wages' as Protesters Rally

McDonald's offers “real careers” and “competitive wages”, CEO Don Thompson told shareholders on Thursday, as hundreds of protesters chanted for better pay outside the fast-food giant’s annual meeting.

As demonstrators staged a second day of protests against the company’s wage scale outside the company’s suburban Chicago headquarters, Thompson told shareholders: "We believe we pay fair and competitive wages.”

“I know we have people outside,” said Thompson. “I think that McDonald’s provides more opportunity than any other company … We continue to believe that we pay fair and competitive wages,” he said.

Thompson said the company offered opportunities to young people, and the training for them to build careers. “McDonald’s has done that throughout time, and will continue to do that,” he said.

Outside the meeting, from which journalists were barred, protesters called on the company to raise its wages to a minimum of $15 an hour. On Wednesday, 139 people, including 101 fast-food employees, were arrested after staging a protest outside the company’s headquarters.

McDonald’s closed the largest office on its campus beforeo the protest, sending 2,000 employees home for the day, citing traffic concerns.

Outside the meeting, protesters chanted: “We work, we sweat, put $15 on my check." Workers from Detroit chanted: “Hey hey, ho ho, $7.40 has got to go,” referring to their minimum wage salaries in Michigan.

The protests were the latest in a series by fast-food and retail workers in the US, who have been campaigning for a raise in the minimum wage and the right to join unions without recrimination. Earlier this month, fast-food workers in dozens of cities walked off their jobs in a day of protest over wages.

Thompson comfortably survived a vote questioning his $9.5m pay package for 2013. The “say on pay” protest vote was organised by Change to Win Investment Group (Ctw), which recently won a similar vote at Chipotle, which is now reviewing executive compensation.

Thompson was also quizzed about the company’s marketing to tactics to children. In the meeting Casey Hinds, a mother from Lexington, Kentucky, said Ronald McDonald was "the Joe Camel of fast food." The company was also accused of being “predatory” in its marketing to children.

“We are not predatory. It’s the truth,” said Thompson. He said the company’s marketing was “not intended to be anything other than fun for kids.”

“We are people. We do have values at McDonald's. We are parents," said Thompson. He said the company offered healthy choices and had sold over 1.1bn apple slices. “My parents eat McDonald’s and they are here today – they are quite healthy,” he said.

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