Herb Washington, a former player for the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s, and a black owner of 14 McDonald’s franchises, says the corporation has given white owners better treatment and been barring him from buying restaurants in wealthier communities, according to a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Youngstown, Ohio.
Washington once owned 27 restaurants and said he had been forced by McDonald’s in recent years to sell off seven outlets to all-white owners.
The complaint said the number of black McDonald’s franchise owners across the United States has dropped from 377 in 1998 to 186 now.
“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 says. “Black franchisees must spend more to operate their stores, while white franchisees get to realize the full benefit of their labors.”
In a video press conference broadcast Tuesday, Washington said he has fought against a two-tiered system since buying his first franchise in Rochester, NY, 40 years ago.
The firm said Washington faces “business challenges” as a result of which it has “invested significantly in his organization” and “will be able to address those issues over several years.”
McDonald’s rejected Washington’s claims in a statement Tuesday.
Washington said he has always hoped McDonald’s will change the company’s culture and create an equity between black and white franchisees.
“I will no longer give up my seat on the bus,” Washington said, referring to the words of civil-rights icon Rosa Parks.
The company was previously sued by more than 50 ex-McDonald’s franchise owners in September, according to a lawsuit filed against the company.