EFEChicago

Several thousand McDonald's employees on Wednesday blocked access to the corporate headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook on the first of two days of protests to demand that shareholders approve a minimum hourly wage of $15.

According to the Service Employees International Union, 2,500 demonstrators turned out for the protest, but Deivid Rojas, of the Fight for $15 campaign, said in a communique that some 5,000 people took part, double the number who protested on the matter last year.

Displayed at the protest was a statue of a golden woman with her right fist raised in the air and a sign in the other hand saying "Fight/Lucha/$15."

Also in evidence was a sign demanding better pay and union rights for workers, instead of food stamps that many McDonald's employees must get from the government due to their economic difficulties.

The protest was held peacefully, although Oak Brook police on bicycles closely monitored the crowd and their activities.

Last year, during a similar protest, police arrested 138 people for trespassing on private property, including 101 workers.

"We don't want food stamps. We want $15 and union rights," said Adriana Alvarez, who works in a Chicago restaurant and needs state subsidies to support her 3-year-old son.

McDonald's spokesperson Heidi Barker reiterated the firm's position Wednesday that it has no influence over the wages paid to workers at franchise stores, although she said that it's possible that those stores could follow the example of CEO Steve Easterbrook.

Last month, he announced a $1 per hour pay increase starting July 1 for workers at restaurants owned by the firm, and he said that by the end of 2016, workers' pay would be an average of $10 per hour.

However, that increase would only apply to some 90,000 workers at the 1,500 restaurants operated by McDonald's in the United States.

It does not include another 660,000 workers employed by 12,500 franchise stores around the country.

The $1 increase was rejected by the employees and by some restaurant operators, who say that it is an additional cost at a time when sales have been reduced due to competitive pressure.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have minimum wage levels that exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Although McDonald's is the main target of the campaign, Fight for $15 has become a movement including other workers from airport employees to half-time university professors.

Organizers say that on Thursday protest organizers will deliver to the firm more than a million signatures of people who support the pay hike.