Workers protest at McDonald's HQ for $15 minimum wage
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Thousands of McDonald’s employees and union activists calling for higher wages protested outside the restaurant chain’s headquarters outside Chicago on Thursday.

About 5,000 McDonald’s staffers disrupted the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Oak Brook, Ill., according to The Guardian.

The massive rally was the largest in McDonald's history over wages, according to the report, and only the latest effort in a nationwide push by employees to raise their minimum hourly salary to $15.

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“We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check,” protesters chanted outside the fast-food giant’s center of operations.

“McDonald’s: $15 and union rights, not food stamps,” signs read.

McDonald's dismissed the protest and criticized the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has long pushed to unionize fast-food workers.

“The union has spent its members’ dues money in the past two years attacking the McDonald’s brand ... in an unsuccessful attempt to unionize workers,” McDonald’s said in a statement.

McDonald's is only one of a number of companies targeted over its wages in recent months. Labor groups have backed the protests, drawing attention to what they say are stagnating incomes and inequality.

McDonald's in April announced it would raise wages for 90,000 workers at company-owned restaurants by $1.

“We voluntarily took leadership,” new McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said on Thursday of the decision, adding that he was “incredibly proud” of the increase.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, though, argued it was not enough.

“It’s time for McDonald’s to respect the workers on the frontlines as much as they have respected shareholders by putting $30 billion in their pockets over the last 10 years,” she said.

Only 10 percent of McDonald stores are owned by the parent corporation, though, and the company says it can't control franchisees' labor decisions.

The debate over the minimum wage is also fast becoming an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Top aide Jeff Weaver lays out Sanders's path to victory MORE (I-Vt.), running for the Democratic nomination, urged President Obama last week to raise the pay for the lowest-earning employees at firms working with the federal government.

He called on Obama to use executive action to force government agencies to give preferential treatment to contracts that pay workers a “living wage.”

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, meanwhile, called for a hike on the $7.25 federal minimum wage on May 8, the only Republican contender to do so yet.

“I think, probably, it should be higher than now,” Carson told CNBC’s John Harwood during an interview.

Advisers for former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a possible 2016 contender, told The Hill in February that he was open to potentially raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), another potential candidate, told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last October that he doesn’t believe the minimum wage “serves a purpose.”