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McMadness: Activists Pile On At McDonald's Shareholders Meeting

Demonstrators march on McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., on Wednesday, demanding a wage increase to $15 per hour.

Whoa, I wouldn't want to be Steve Easterbrook right about now.

The newish CEO of McDonald's — who has pledged to turn the fast-food giant into a progressive burger chain — is getting an earful this week, as the company prepares to convene its annual shareholders meeting on Thursday.

A few thousand workers protested outside the company's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Wednesday afternoon, chanting, "We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check," referring to the push for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

And it's not just workers rallying for higher wages. A slew of activists have descended on Oak Brook to register a host of beefs with the company.

There's the Toxic Taters Coalition, a group that wants to raise awareness about the levels of pesticides used on potatoes that McDonald's buys.

And there's a leader from the Chicago Teacher's Union who takes issue with a fundraising practice called McTeacher's Nights. In these events, teachers and administrators work behind the counter at McDonald's on a given night and invite their students to come dine.

"We're gearing up to make a big splash," says Kara Kaufman, a spokesperson for the Value [The] Meal campaign organized by the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International.

Corporate Accountability International plans to bring a team inside the meeting that includes members of the Chicago Teachers Union, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, organizers with Restaurant Opportunities Center United and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. Together, they plan to challenge McDonald's labor practices and kid-targeted marketing.

Kaufman says the coalition is asking McDonald's to "analyze how its political spending and marketing practices align with its stated values." The group has filed a shareholders' resolution aimed at bringing awareness to the discrepancies between the two.

For example, Kaufman says McDonald's claims to treat employees with fairness and dignity, but "it has made contributions to politicians and organizations that publicly oppose an increase in the minimum wage."

The resolution is not likely to pass, given that the McDonald's board of directors has already recommended voting against it.

Another example: As we've reported, in 2013 Don Thompson, the former CEO of McDonald's, said point blank, "We're not marketing to schools." But Charlie Feick, an organizer with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who is also a teacher in Massachusetts, wants to press this issue.

"This is simply not true," Feick plans to tell the shareholders' meeting. "Under the guise of promoting everything from reading to healthy lifestyles, you regularly send Ronald [McDonald] into schools in the U.S. and throughout the world to push your junk-food brand," Feick is planning to say.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, along with a bevy of other organizations, has been pushing for McDonald's to stop marketing to kids in school.

So, if he gets the chance to directly address Easterbrook Thursday, here's Feick's question: "Will you finally commit to ending the predatory practice of targeting our children in schools?"

If you want to watch the shareholders meeting unfold, you can get as close as we reporters in the media who are covering the issue — watch it via webcast. As The Guardian has reported, McDonald's has banned the media from actually attending the meeting.

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