U.S. Markets closed

McDonald's closes headquarters due to expected worker protests

A McDonald's sign is shown outside one of their restaurants in Encinitas, California January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Justin Madden and Lisa Baertlein

CHICAGO/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) said on Wednesday it temporarily closed its suburban Chicago headquarters for a third year in a row as fast-food workers plan to protest at the company's annual shareholders meeting with calls for wages of at least $15 (£10) an hour and union rights.

The company will host the annual shareholders meeting at its Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters on Thursday, with security personnel in attendance as usual, spokeswoman Lisa McComb said.

Protest organizers said the annual meeting actions, scheduled to run from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning, will be the biggest and most aggressive of their kind thus far.

McDonald's encouraged employees to work from home on Wednesday, McComb said in an email.

The "Fight for $15" campaign, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union, since 2012 has had a hand in convincing some lawmakers and big employers to boost minimum wages and improve working conditions. The union represents workers ranging from fast-food restaurants to home health aides.

McDonald's last July raised average hourly pay and began offering paid vacations and other benefits for the roughly 90,000 workers at its company-operated U.S. restaurants.

"At McDonald’s, we take seriously our role in helping strengthen communities," providing many with their very first job," McComb said.

As one of the world's largest and most recognizable companies, McDonald's is the target of frequent protests. It says it cannot tell its franchisees how to pay their employees. Almost 90 percent of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are operated by franchisees.

McDonald's recently revived its business with a turnaround plan that included selling breakfast all day in the United States.

While executives and shareholders have reaped rewards via salary hikes and gains in the stock price, front-line workers say they have not shared in the wealth.

"Corporations ought to invest in workers so they don't need food stamps, subsidized housing and other benefits," SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said.

(Additional reporting by Jim Young in Oak Brook, Illinois; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)