By Justin Madden
OAK BROOK, Ill. (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters rallied outside McDonald's Corp headquarters as shareholders on Thursday approved executive compensation and voted down a slate of shareholder resolutions, including those involving political contributions and antibiotic use in meat production.
The picketers are part of a national "Fight for $15" movement that, along with an improving job market, has spurred pay raises at major employers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and McDonald's, though not to the level demanded by protesting workers and supporters.
McDonald's, the world's biggest fast-food chain, last summer increased average worker pay to almost $10 per hour. But those raises were limited to just a fraction of all McDonald's restaurant workers in the United States because franchisees operate almost 90 percent of the chain's 14,000 domestic locations.
Protesters called on Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook, the architect of a turnaround plan that is gaining traction with help from a sales boost from all-day breakfast, to share the higher profits with all McDonald's workers rather than just executives and shareholders.
Workers seeking pay of at least $15 per hour and the right to unionize, and their supporters, have protested at the company's annual meeting for years. Their actions this week prompted McDonald's to temporarily close its Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters for the third year in a row.
"This comes down to holding McDonald's accountable for keeping workers in poverty," said Naquasia LeGrand, 24, who traveled 15 hours on a chartered bus from North Carolina, where she makes $8.15 an hour as a McDonald's swing manager.
Angel Mitchell, a McDonald's worker from Chicago, spent a rain-soaked night camping out at the company's headquarters.
"We cook and serve those all-day breakfasts that are making McDonald's millions and millions, but we can't feed our own families without turning to food stamps," Mitchell said.
McDonald's says it cannot tell its franchisees how to pay their employees. The issue is the subject of a closely watched case before the National Labor Relations Board.
"At McDonald's, we take seriously our role in helping strengthen communities," providing many with their very first job, spokeswoman Lisa McComb said by email on Wednesday as protests kicked off.
The "Fight for $15" campaign is backed by the Service Employees International Union and also includes people who work in home care, child care, airports and higher education.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Editing by Peter Henderson and Lisa Von Ahn)