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McDonald's CEO 'incredibly proud' of pay hike

Protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union march near McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Wednesday, May 20, 2015. | Teresa Crawford / AP

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook

NEW YORK — McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook says he was “incredibly proud” of a recent decision to bump pay for workers at company-owned restaurants.The remark came during the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which was preceded by hundreds of protesters outside calling for pay of $15 an hour and union.

Easterbrook referenced the company’s plan to raise pay for workers at company-owned restaurants to $1 above the minimum wage. Labor organizers have said the move falls short, in part because McDonald’s owns only about 10 percent of its more than 14,300 stores in the U.S.

During the meeting, shareholders also approved a proposal to make it easier for investors to nominate directors. McDonald’s had opposed the proposal, which it said could enable shareholders with “special interests” to nominate directors.

Easterbrook, who stepped into his role in March, has already laid out the beginnings of a plan he says will help revive the business. That includes simplifying the company’s corporate structure and reducing costs.

McDonald’s Corp., which has more than 36,000 locations around the world, is struggling with rapidly changing tastes and intensifying competition.

It has also been the target of ongoing protests, with labor organizers and workers calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union. Before the meeting got underway Thursday, protesters turned out for a second straight day near McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, to deliver a petition of support that organizers said had 1.4 million signatures.

Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said a company representative would accept the petition outside the meeting.

Organizers said about 5,000 turned out for a protest a day earlier. Oak Brook police estimated the crowd at about 2,000 people.

CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer