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McDonald's closes headquarters as protesters gather

CHICAGO (CNNMoney) -- McDonald's corporate headquarters near Chicago looks like a ghost town.

 

On the site where fast-food workers planned a wage protest Wednesday, McDonald's confirmed the closing of its headquarters, which was to be the demonstrators' focal point.

 

\"The building where the protestors told the police they were visiting is the building the police advised us to close in advance for security and traffic purposes,\" said McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb.

 

The parking lot at McDonald's headquarters was empty except for about five cars. The 24/7 McDonald's restaurant on the campus appears to be closed as well. ls.

 

The organizers said they moved their protest to a nearby intersection. About 300 people were gathered on a soccer field in the area, waiting to march to another location in Oak Brook, the Chicago suburb where McDonald's is based.

 

Organizers said they expect a crowd of more than 2,000, including 120 McDonald's workers, employees from other fast-food companies, clergy and community leaders to assemble there,

 

The protesters want the hourly wage for fast-food workers raised to $15 and seek the right to join a union without retaliation. The demonstration was scheduled on the eve of McDonald's annual shareholders' meeting, which is also being held at the corporate headquarters. Organizers said they would also show up outside the meeting on Thursday.

 

\"We want to make sure that McDonald's shareholders and CEO Don Thompson hear us and see us and know that these are the workers they are pushing into poverty,\" said Kendall Fells of the organizing group Fast Food Forward. \"We want them to know what it's like to make a decision to buy a bus pass of feed your kids.\"

 

In a statement, McDonald's said: \"We respect everyone's rights to peacefully protest. We are focused on welcoming our shareholders to McDonald's annual meeting.\"

 

The issue of fast-food industry pay has been in the headlines over the past year.

 

While the federal minimum wage is still $7.25 an hour, several states and cities have recently enacted laws to increase their wage floor to an average of $10.10 in most places and as much as $15 in Seattle.

 

Just last week, protesters in cities including New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles joined strikes outside of fast-food restaurants demanding their minimum hourly wage be raised to $15 an hour.

 

The average hourly wage of fast-food employees is $9.09, or less than $19,000 per year for a full-time worker.

 

A recent from public advocacy group Demos said that CEOs at fast-food companies earn 1,000 times what the average fast-food employee earns, making it one of the biggest pay disparities in the American economy. 

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