Thousands of McDonald's workers seeking a minimum wage of $15 per hour swarmed the fast-food giant's headquarters for the first of two days of protests to coincide with the fast-food chain's annual meeting today.
Protests by low-wage fast-food and retail workers have helped fuel a national debate in the US about pay levels. Companies such as McDonald's and Wal-Mart Stores are raising starting pay and cities like Seattle and Chicago are boosting their minimum wages over time.
Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's new chief executive, last month announced that starting pay at company-operated restaurants would be set at $1 above the locally mandated minimum wage, beginning on July 1. By the end of 2016, McDonald's expects the average hourly pay rate to be above $10 per hour.
Those increases only apply to some 90,000 workers at the roughly 1,500 U.S. restaurants McDonald's operates. They do not affect around 660,000 other restaurant workers employed by U.S. McDonald's franchisees.
Some workers were quick to criticize the announcement, saying it was too little to make a real difference and affected too few workers.
The decision also angered some McDonald's restaurant operators, who said it would put additional cost pressure on franchisees struggling to maintain profits at a time when sales have been weakened by intense competition and internal missteps that have slowed service.