The black owner of 14 McDonald & # 39; s franchises says the company 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 in federal court in Youngstown, Ohio.
The lawsuit filed by Herbert Washington, a former Michigan State trackster who played part of two seasons with the Oakland Athletics in the mid-1970s, said the Chicago-based company's discriminatory practices led to a $ 700,000 sales gap. between franchises owned by Black. and that of whites.
Franchises in low-income neighborhoods cost more to operate, have higher employee turnover and are not as profitable, 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 level of success White franchisees could expect," the lawsuit said. "Black franchisees have to spend more to run their stores, while white franchisees can realize the full benefit of their work."
More than 50 former Black McDonald & # 39; s franchise owners have made similar claims to Washington's in a lawsuit filed against the company in September, stating that they have had to sell approximately 200 stores in the past decade.
During a video press conference on Tuesday, Washington said he has fought a two-tier system since buying his first franchise 40 years ago in Rochester, New York. Washington once owned 27 restaurants and said he was forced by McDonald & # 39; s to sell seven stores to white owners in recent years.
He now has 12 restaurants in Northeast Ohio and two in Pennsylvania. He blames his advocacy on behalf of the owners of Black McDonald & # 39; s for his troubles with the company.
"McDonald & # 39; s has threatened me with extinction," Washington said. "The bows are in full retaliation against me."
McDonald & # 39; s issued a statement on Tuesday denying Washington's claims. The company said Washington "faces business challenges" for which the company "has invested significantly in its organization" while providing "multiple opportunities for several years to address these challenges."
"This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington, whose organization has failed to meet many of our people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment standards," the statement said.
According to the lawsuit, the number of Black McDonald & # 39; s franchise owners in the US has dropped from 377 in 1998 to 186 now. The company said in response that while the total number of US restaurants has increased from about 12,500 at the end of 1998 to 14,000 today, the percentage of stores owned by blacks is "largely unchanged."
Washington said he always hoped McDonald & # 39; s would change its culture and create parity between black and white franchise owners. He said the company recently offered him $ 6 a day for each of its franchises to close the sales gap.
"I can't even buy a Happy Meal with that kind of help," he said. "They don't want someone like me to be there. I'm telling the truth."
69-year-old Washington occupies a unique place in baseball history. As an NCAA champion and All-American sprinter, he was used purely as a pinch runner in the major leagues – he appeared in 105 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1974-75, but never took to the bat and never took the field with a glove .
Washington stole 31 bases and scored 33 runs for the A & # 39; s. He earned a championship ring after playing three World Series athletics games in their 1974 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Washington was working as a sports reporter in Lansing, Michigan, near the Michigan State campus, when innovative A & # 39; s owner Charlie O. Finley called him with an offer to play baseball.
Many around the majors thought it was a joke, but Washington's speed added a new dimension to a team that won three consecutive World Series championships. Washington spent the entire 1974 season at Oakland and was released in May 1975.
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