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McDonald’s shareholder meeting brings roar of protests but few surprises

UPDATED: Wed., May 24, 2017

McDonald’s shareholders saw all of their proposals rejected at the burger giant’s annual meeting Wednesday in suburban Chicago, including requests to put a franchisee on McDonald’s board, phase out routine antibiotic use in pigs and cows in the company’s supply chain, and eliminate the use of polystyrene-based foam drink cups in restaurants overseas, (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)
McDonald’s shareholders saw all of their proposals rejected at the burger giant’s annual meeting Wednesday in suburban Chicago, including requests to put a franchisee on McDonald’s board, phase out routine antibiotic use in pigs and cows in the company’s supply chain, and eliminate the use of polystyrene-based foam drink cups in restaurants overseas, (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)
By Samantha Bomkamp Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday attracted hoards of protesters outside the burger giant’s suburban Chicago headquarters. Inside, though, the meeting produced few surprises.

According to preliminary voting results, all the proposals put forth by shareholders failed, including requests to put a franchisee on McDonald’s board, phase out routine antibiotic use in pigs and cows in the company’s supply chain, eliminate the use of polystyrene-based foam drink cups in restaurants overseas, set a lower threshold to call special shareholder meetings, and increase transparency on McDonald’s charitable contributions.

Just 1.3 percent of shareholders voted in favor of giving franchisees, which operate almost 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants, the right to elect a board member, McDonald’s said. About 30 percent voted in favor of McDonald’s developing a plan to phase out antibiotics in beef and pork, as it has done with chicken. And 47 percent of shareholders voted in favor of the proposal that would make it easier to call special meetings.

All of the company’s director nominees, and all of its own proposals, including its executive compensation structure, were approved. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook’s total compensation nearly doubled to $15.4 million last year, his second full year in the top job.

In brief remarks before taking questions from the crowd, Easterbrook said the company has a “restless energy” to move forward in its plan to improve customer traffic and overall growth, focusing on digital, delivery and “experience of the future,” McDonald’s name for its renovated restaurants with kiosk ordering and table service.

The chain said earlier this month it has expanded delivery through UberEats to about 1,000 restaurants nationwide.

The meeting is expected to be the last at McDonald’s longtime headquarters, as the world’s largest burger chain prepares to move to downtown Chicago next spring.

The annual meeting has attracted protesters in recent years who support a higher minimum wage. This year, supporters of the Fight for $15 movement were joined by Trump resistance groups. Fight for $15 organizers say that the protests outside McDonald’s headquarters were echoed by worker protests in about a dozen cities.

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