Rev. Al Sharpton is demanding McDonald’s take accountability for longstanding claims that it continues to perpetuate racial discrimination. The social justice leader sent a letter to the fast-food corporation’s CEO, Chris Kempczinski, calling out its failures.
“We find it appalling and inexcusable that McDonald’s Corporation has not satisfied its differences with the Black community. There are lawsuits brought by Black franchises. Another [case] brought by a Black former executive over racial discrimination from the highest levels,” said Sharpton in a statement released via the National Action Network. “We are also outraged at the removal of John Rogers, a well-respected business leader for the Black community, from the board of directors. We unequivocally demand they immediately acknowledge and address these issues, or we will begin a national campaign around McDonald’s. You cannot sell Black folks Big Macs and give us little justice,” he continued.
Last year, media mogul Byron Allen filed a $10 billion petition against the global food chain. He argues that McDonald’s upholds discriminatory practices that prevent Black-owned media outlets from having access to advertising opportunities with the company. “This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy,” Allen said when a judge ruled in his favor to uphold the court case. “McDonald’s takes billions from African American consumers and gives almost nothing back. The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between white corporate America and Black America, and McDonald’s is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately.”
In 2021, the Golden Arches settled a lawsuit with retired MLB player Herb Washington. He accused the company of unfairly grading his restaurants and putting him over low-volume locations in Black communities. “When I stood up for myself and other Black franchisees, McDonald’s began dismantling my life’s work, forcing me to sell one store after another to white operators,” said Washington, according to an MSNBC report that year.
He agreed to sever ties with the company when it purchased his 13 franchises for a reported $33.5 million. At one point in time, Washington had the most franchises. “Discrimination has no place at McDonald’s. While we were confident in the strength of our case, this resolution aligns with McDonald’s values and enables us to continue focusing on our commitments to the communities that we serve,” said McDonald’s in a statement. Tennessee franchise owners James and Darrell Byrd launched a similar complaint against the billion-dollar company, citing that white franchisees were given more favorable treatment. Their settlement agreement amounted to $6.5 million and also saw them exit the franchise system.
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