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Black franchisee Herb Washington: ‘McDonald’s quit on me’

“YOUNGSTOWN — In his discrimination lawsuit filed today, McDonald’s franchisee Herb Washington alleges the fast-food giant operates using a two-tier system — one for white owners and another for Black owners.

White owners are encouraged to flourish and grow; meanwhile, the company works “to pigeonhole and oppress Black owners like me,” Washington said.

“For 40 years, McDonald’s has been moving the goalposts. Now they want to destroy me,” Washington said. “And let’s be clear: I didn’t quit all my jobs. McDonald’s quit on me.”

Specifically, Washington said the company has prohibited Washington from purchasing stores in white neighborhoods, forced Washington to sell seven restaurants — which ended up in the hands of white owners — and disqualified his son from purchasing restaurants from him or anyone else.

In a statement released prior to the news conference, McDonald’s blamed “the situation” on Washington’s mismanagement.

To which Washington replied, “You don’t stay in this system for 40 years, in any career, if you’re such a bad actor.”

Further, the company claims nearly 30 percent of franchisees are “ethnically diverse” and noted it is trying to increase the diversity of franchisees under the leadership of new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer Reggie Miller.

In response, Washington asked, “Why now?”

One of Washington’s attorneys, Joe Peiffer, noted the company acknowledged racist policies such as red-lining Black owners from buying restaurants in white neighborhoods as early as 1996 and has been promising parity among franchisees since then.

In that period of time — from 1997 to today — the number of Black franchisees has declined from 377 to 186.

The appearance of addressing racial inequality is “good for business,” Washington said.

Regarding the endgame of his lawsuit, Washington said his goal is to “make McDonald’s stop the systemic racism that exists in the two-tier system, where black owner-operators cannot be as successful and white [owners] and that there is a system for them and there’s one for people that look like me.””

Mahoning Matters | Jess Hardin | February 16, 2021


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