Former Oakland A’s player, community leader, and the man who’s said to have one of the most notable success stories in Black American business history, Herb Washington has filed a lawsuit against fast-food giant McDonald’s.
According to Businesswire, the civil rights lawsuit exposes the company’s alleged retaliation and racial discrimination against him as a Black franchisee.
Filed by law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, the complaint claims how McDonald’s “redlined” not only Washington but other Black store owners into its least desirable locations and withheld advantages that are often provided to white store owners.
Allegedly the company also systematically dismantled his 27-store chain empire in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York which forced him to sell seven stores in the last three years, all to white owners.
Despite the company’s continued setbacks in place against Black franchisee owners, Washington was able to break barriers and become the largest Black McDonald’s restaurant owner and operator in the U.S.
“There are two McDonald’s systems: one that is designed for white owners to flourish and grow and another that is designed to pigeonhole and oppress Black owners,” said Washington. “I will no longer give up my seat on the bus for white franchisees. After four decades in the McDonald’s system, I have been targeted for extinction. 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. At the very same time, McDonald’s deemed my 35-year-old son ineligible to purchase any stores. While it may look like a multicultural Mecca in TV commercials, the McDonald’s experience for Black franchisees is one of redlining and retaliation. Behind the curtain, McDonald’s is about cultural appropriation and restricting the transfer of intergenerational wealth in the Black community.”
Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway stands fully behind their client, making note of the fast-food chain’s continued abuse of its Black franchise owners.
“If a Black business leader like Herb Washington can be silenced for speaking up against racial discrimination by a major U.S. corporation, then what Black businessperson is safe? McDonald’s acknowledged its discriminatory racial-steering policy decades ago and promised to ensure parity for its Black franchisees, but then failed to do so,” said managing partner, Joseph Peiffer. “If anything, it’s even worse today for Herb Washington and other Black store owners. In 1998, there were 377 Black franchisees in the McDonald’s system. Now there are 186. These numbers lay bare McDonald’s intentionally racist policies and practices toward Black franchisees.”
They also called the bluff on McDonald’s recent stance in solidarity following the murder of George Floyd and racial awakening in the nation.
“While McDonald’s has joined the chorus of brands releasing hollow solidarity statements in support of Black Lives Matter and has launched a marketing campaign to profit from that movement, it has done nothing to change its own internal policies that perpetuate systemic racism by disadvantaging and squeezing out its Black franchise owners,” said Kevin Conway, partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway.
Prior to taking on the role as a McDonald’s franchisee, Washington was a world-class athlete and attended Michigan State University on a track scholarship. He has won seven Big Ten Titles, an NCAA championship, and was a four-time All-American.