An unnamed rabbi was among protesters arrested Wednesday at McDonald’s headquarters in Illinois, The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday.
The disgruntled crowd assembled to demand $15 an hour wages and the right to unionize.
Police ordered demonstrators to disperse after they passed through a security kiosk onto McDonald’s property.
Officials then began to arrest protesters who lined up behind a barrier in front of the compound’s main building. A police officer allegedly told the rabbi, “We’re all on the same team,” according to a witness.
A total of 138 people were arrested including many McDonald’s workers, an Oak Brook Police Department spokeswoman said.
Emmanuel Gonzalez, a McDonald’s employee who participated in the protest, said he came prepared to be detained, though he was not. Arrest is “the price we have to pay to fight for $15 an hour,” the 18-year-old said.
Bernard Jakes, a pastor at West Point Baptist Church in Chicago, attended the protest to show his solidarity with the workers.
“We’re fighting for livable wages for workers of McDonald’s,” he told HuffPost. ”Fighting for them and their right to unionize. It’s not only a mandate of our faith, it’s a human right. Treating people fairly is a human right.”
Protesters continued their picketing during McDonald’s shareholder meeting on Thursday.
McDonald’s spokesperson Lisa McComb told HuffPost in an email that “the company remains focused on welcoming our shareholders to McDonald’s annual meeting… We respect everyone’s rights to peacefully protest.”
McComb called Wednesday’s protests “a staged event” and said only a few of the participants were McDonald’s workers, a claim activists deny.
McDonald’s closed down another building originally scheduled to be the site of the protests, forcing activists to move the demonstration to the company’s Illinois headquarters. McComb said the company closed the building following advice from the police and that the McDonald’s campus includes several buildings, most of which are still open.
“We’ve adjusted work schedules for our employees and access to our facilities to assist the Oak Brook Police Department to address the protests and the related traffic congestion,” she told HuffPost.
While Labor activists are demanding better wages, McDonald’s is losing market share in the breakfast category to competitor Taco Bell. It is also facing backlash after debuting too many new menu items too fast, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Business Insider noted earlier this week that McDonald’s wouldn’t be allowing media to attend its shareholder meeting. The company claims the decision was made due to a lack of interest from reporters, but analysts told Business Insider that the company made the decision to avoid potential bad publicity. The meeting was webcast across the country instead.