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Associated Press

NEW YORK — McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook is set to make his debut before shareholders at the company's annual meeting Thursday at a time when the chain is facing declining sales and ongoing protests over worker pay.

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.