UPDATED: 5/22/2014 10:51 a.m.
OAK BROOK, Ill. (CBS) — More than half of the McDonald’s staff at its corporate headquarters was told to work from home on Wednesday, because the threat of demonstrations by minimum wage workers forced the company to close an office building.
WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports about 2,000 McDonald’s workers have been told to work from home, according to spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem.
Oak Brook Police estimate that 1,000-1,500 people took part in the protests. Early police estimates are that 110 demonstrators were arrested for violation of criminal trespass on private property.
The company told corporate staffers to work from home because of a demonstration outside its Oakbrook headquarters, staged by restaurant workers seeking a $15-an-hour wage. McDonald’s closed the building where the staffers work to help police handle the protest rally and any related traffic issues.
“In anticipation of some protest activity, we made the decision to ask some folks to work from home today in one building, which is located on 22nd Street, not too far from the Oakbrook Mall,” Barker said. “It’s a very busy intersection, and we feel that that would help with pedestrian traffic and vehicle traffic.”
McDonald’s workers have staged repeated protests in the past year to seek a $15 hourly wage, and more consistent work schedules for part-time employees.
“We know that $15 is unrealistic, but we do know that the minimum wage will increase over time,” Barker said. “Not sure what will happen in Washington this year, and we’ll have to look to the debate next year when it picks up again.”
Barker said the building McDonald’s closed houses its U.S. business. Another 1,200 employees who work in other buildings were still at their offices on Wednesday.
“The reports that say the McDonald’s headquarters are closed are absolutely false. McDonald’s headquarters are open,” she said. “Our folks are working, and we are set to welcome our shareholders tomorrow for our annual meeting.”
The rallies for higher wages for restaurant staff were timed to coincide with the shareholders meeting.
“The protesters are also saying that the shareholders meeting has been moved, but that is incorrect. The shareholders meeting is still on in the original location, and set for tomorrow,” Barker said.
McDonald’s said demonstrators were bused in, and some were paid to attend the rally.
Another protest on Thursday morning before the company’s shareholders meeting ended with no arrests.
Several buses with union workers with Service Employees International Union participated.