McDonald’s faces critics at annual meeting

McDonalds Headquarters Protest

OAK BROOK, Illinois (AP) — McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson sought to address a growing chorus of critics on issues including worker pay, marketing to children and animal rights at its shareholders meeting Thursday.

Thompson stressed that the company has a heritage of providing job opportunities and wasn’t predatory or focused on marketing to children.

“We are people. We do have values at McDonald’s. We are parents,” Thompson said.

A day earlier, McDonald’s closed one of its buildings in Oak Brook, Illinois, where hundreds of protesters had planned to demonstrate over the low wages paid to its workers.

Protesters targeted another site on the company’s headquarters in suburban Chicago, and more than 138 were arrested for refusing to leave the property.

The protesters were out again before the meeting Thursday, chanting “I want, I want, I want my $15.”

Shawn Dalton, 59, traveled from Pittsburgh, saying she wanted to support fast-food and minimum-wage workers. Dalton said her daughter is a recent high school graduate who can’t afford to go to college right away, so she’ll likely wind up earning Pennsylvania’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage.

Inside the meeting, individuals affiliated with Corporate Accountability intended to once again bring up the company’s marketing to children. Last year, the group made headlines after it arranged to have a 9-year-old girl ask Thompson to stop “tricking” kids into eating McDonald’s food.

McDonald’s representatives didn’t immediately respond when asked if they planned to change the way it conducts its question-and-answer period this year. In past years, people have been able to stand and directly address executives.

Shareholder meetings offer a rare opportunity for average investors to face top executives at publicly traded companies. Public pension funds and activist groups often show up in hopes of changing corporate practices.

The McDonald’s meeting is a frequent target because of the company’s high profile.

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AP Business Writer Candice Choi contributed from New York.

Follow Candice Choi at http://www.twitter.com/candicechoi

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