McDonald’s shuts down restaurant amid protest over low wages

Protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour march toward McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Wednesday. The start of the two-day demonstration comes ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.

O McDonald’s shut down a restaurant near its headquarters Wednesday after the area was swamped by hundreds of protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union.

The restaurant was closed because of traffic concerns, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s. The company also told employees in a building targeted by protesters they should work from home, she said.

The start of the two-day demonstration comes ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting taking place on Thursday. Last year, McDonald’s also closed a building because of a protest, and more than 100 people were later arrested after refusing to leave corporate property.

The campaign for pay of $15 an hour and a union began in late 2012 and has involved a range of tactics, including ongoing demonstrations in cities around the country. Earlier this year, McDonald’s said it would raise its starting pay for workers to $1 above the local minimum wage. Labor organizers said the move falls short because it only applies to company-owned stores.

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McDonald’s Corp. owns about 10 percent of its stores in the U.S., while the rest are run by franchisees.

The protests come as McDonald’s fights to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition from smaller rivals and changing tastes. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who stepped into the role in March, has said he wants to transform McDonald’s into a “modern, progressive burger company.”

Thursday will mark his first shareholder meeting as CEO.