Fast-food giant McDonald’s has banned media from its annual shareholder meeting this week, which is expected to be protested by over 400,000 low-wage workers demanding an increase in pay, The Guardian reported.
The move was deemed “extremely shocking” by both company shareholders and business groups alike.
“We can’t think of a single other company who has dared to ban the press from an annual meeting. What does the company have to hide?” the AFL-CIO said to The Guardian. The AFL-CIO is the biggest trade union in the country and also owns more than $30 million-worth of shares in McDonald’s.
“We call on McDonald’s to reverse their decision and allow media,” said the AFL-CIO’s Vineeta Anand. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant. When you shine a light on a company, it changes their behavior. They are acting like some sort of secret society.”
“McDonald’s is not an insignificant company; they are one of the nation’s best-known household names, and it is extremely shocking and troubling that a company of its size would ban the press,” said Anand.
McDonald’s spokesperson Heidi Baker told The Guardian that while the company will not be hosting them at the meeting, “media are invited to listen … via webcast.” She denied the idea that media were banned to keep them from covering the “Fight for $15” protests taking place outside, saying that their priority was “to accommodate our valued shareholders.”
Anand called that “the lamest of lame excuses.”
“How many press were they expecting and how many investors? If it’s a question of hundreds of people, maybe they should rent a bigger room. And if they can’t afford that, it’s pretty pathetic.”
“It signals a fear of scrutiny, and it’s not going to help them build trust with shareholders or the public,” said Eleanor Bloxham, chief executive of the Value Alliance and Corporate Governance, an advisor to several Fortune 500 companies.”They should want people to be able to understand the conversation between McDonald’s and its workers and shareholders.”
“In terms of rebuilding its reputation and regaining public trust, this goes against everything they have been trying to do. It is a very fearful move that is not going to create confidence on behalf of shareholders or the public.”
McDonald’s knows it has treated its workers like garbage for decades, and it’s finally catching up to them. Keeping the media away from a meeting isn’t going to make that fact go away. But if the giant corporation is this scared of protesters, maybe things are finally about to change.