Black McDonald’s franchise owner files racial discrimination lawsuit against fast-food giant

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Former pro-baseball player Herb Washington, who built the largest Black-owned McDonald’s franchise operation in the nation, filed a civil rights suit Tuesday against the fast-food giant.

“After 40 years in the McDonald’s system, I always held out hope that they would live up to their promises and put an end to the two-tier system, one that is designed for white owners to flourish and grow, another designed to pigeonhole and oppress Black owners like me,” he said.

The lawsuit accuses the company of racial discrimination by pushing Black store owners into its least desirable locations and forcing Washington to sell seven stores in the last few years to white owners.

At one point, Washington owned 27 McDonald’s restaurants in several states including Ohio. He currently owns 14, three of those in Cleveland. 

“Behind the curtain, McDonald’s is about cultural appropriation and restricting the transfer of inter-generational wealth in the Black community,” he said.

McDonald’s blamed Washington in a statement: 

“Herb Washington is facing business challenges that we don’t want for anyone in our system. It’s why we’ve invested significantly in his organization and offered him multiple opportunities over several years to address these issues.

This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington, whose organization has failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment. His restaurants have a public record of these issues including past health and sanitation concerns and some of the highest volumes of customer complaints in the country.

We will review the complaint and respond accordingly.”

“We fully expected that McDonald’s would come out with manufactured problems about Herb Washington,” said one of Washington’s attorneys, Joe Peiffer.

McDonald’s says they will continue working with their new chief diversity equity and inclusion officer to increase the diversity of their franchise base.

“McDonald’s has let its Black-owned stored fall behind, averaging $700,000 less in annual revenue by those operated by white owners,” said another of Washington’s attorneys, Kevin Conway.

When asked what his endgame is, Washington said this: “What I want to accomplish with this lawsuit is to make McDonald’s stop the systemic racism that exists and the two-tier system where Black owner-operators cannot be as successful as whites.”

McDonald’s is facing another lawsuit filed last year by more than 50 Black former franchise owners over economic justice issues.

You can view Washington’s lawsuit below:

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