“YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Rev. Jesse Jackson has weighed in on the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Herb Washington against McDonald’s.
The civil rights icon said he will contact the leaders of the fast-food chain to seek a resolution.
“McDonald’s needs to implement a respect-based plan for Black operators,” Jackson said in a statement released Thursday.
Washington filed a suit in federal court here on Tuesday that claims the hamburger chain pressured him to sell seven of his underperforming stores in poor locations. In each case, the locations were sold to White owners.
The pressure, the suit claims, is part of the corporation’s effort to achieve revenue parity between White and Black franchisees but it does not address the fact that Washington – and other Black owners – are routinely denied the opportunity to enter franchise deals with stores in affluent areas.
“There is a growing crisis emerging between McDonald’s and its Black owner-operators, who have historically been allies and the face of the corporation,” Jackson said.
His statement acknowledges that the corporation has made “tremendous strides” over the years, but racial disparity toward Black franchisees has flared anew. Jackson is an acquaintance of Washington, whom he met in the 1980s when Jackson was running for president.
“[Washington] is a man of integrity, having served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank for many years,” Jackson said.
Washington was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Buffalo Branch board, from 1992 to 1993. The former college track star and pro baseball player started his career as a McDonald’s franchisee in 1980 when he obtained his first store in Rochester, N.Y.
Washington, 69, currently has 14 McDonald’s franchises – six in Boardman, Austintown and Youngstown; four in Hermitage, Sharon and Greenville, Pa.; one in Newton Falls; and three in Cleveland.
In the late 1990s, Washington owned 27 franchises and was the largest Black franchisee in the McDonald’s system.
His suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern Division, in Youngstown, also claims the chain is trying to eliminate Black franchisees and has retaliated against him for speaking out. It seeks an unspecified amount of economic damages for financial and mental suffering, along with other remedies for relief.
McDonald’s responded to the lawsuit by claiming that Washington owns multiple restaurants “positioned to deliver growth” but his mismanagement puts them at risk.
Washington’s organization has “failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment,” the company stated, citing a rodent infestation in a Cleveland location. “His restaurants have… some of the highest volumes of customer complaints in the country.”
McDonald’s also claimed it has provided “significant” financial support, although Washington dismissed that claim.
The corporation also said that it does not place franchisees into specific locations; most such sales transactions are between the franchisees. Washington also dismissed this claim, stating that buyers are lined up by the company.”
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