Herb Washington, Flint native and ex-MSU track star, sues McDonald's over discriminatory practices
Cleveland — The Black owner of 14 McDonald’s franchises in Ohio says one of the world’s largest restaurant chains has shown more favorable treatment to white owners and denied him the opportunity to buy restaurants in more affluent communities, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Youngstown.
The lawsuit filed by Herbert Washington, 69, a Flint native and former Michigan State track star who played for parts of two seasons with the Oakland A's in the mid-1970s, said the Chicago-based company’s discriminatory practices has led to a $700,000 sales gap between Black-owned franchises and those owned by whites.
The number of Black franchise owners has fallen from 377 in 1998 to 186 today, while the total number of stores has more than doubled to 40,000, the lawsuit said.
“By relegating Black owners to the oldest stores in the toughest neighborhoods, McDonald’s ensured that Black franchisees would never achieve the levels of success that White franchisees could expect,” the lawsuit said.
“Black franchisees must spend more to operate their stores while White franchisees get to realize the full benefit of their labors,” the lawsuit said.
More than 50 former Black McDonald’s franchise owners made similar claims to Washington’s in a lawsuit filed against the company in September, saying they were forced to sell around 200 stores in the last decade.
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During a video news conference on Tuesday, Washington said he had been fighting a two-tiered system since he bought his first franchise in Rochester, New York, 40 years ago. Washington at one point owned 27 restaurants and said he was forced by McDonald’s to sell seven stores over the last several years to white owners.
He now owns 12 restaurants in northeast Ohio and two in Pennsylvania. He blames his advocacy on behalf of Black McDonald’s owners for his troubles with the company.
“McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction,” Washington said. “The arches are in full-scale retaliation mode against me.”
McDonald’s issued a statement Tuesday denying Washington’s assertions. The company said Washington is “facing business challenges” for which the company has “invested significantly in his organization” while offering 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,” the statement said.