Recently, McDonald's CEO was criticized for sending a text to Chicago's mayor.
Ex-executives and a One Black franchisee say the text is part a larger problem.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the CEO had spoken with Black franchisees in the last week.
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Former McDonald's executives, and a Black franchisee, are slamming McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski over a text he sent to Lori Lightfoot, the Chicago mayor in April.
Chris Kempczinski, CEO, sent Lightfoot a text message on April 19 that stated: "p.s. Last week saw tragic shootings at both our restaurant yesterday as well as with Adam Toldeo. Both parents were negligent in their children's education, which is something I can't believe. It's even harder to fix.
He was referring specifically to the deaths of Jaslyn Adams, 7, and Adam Toledo, 13, respectively. Adams was killed by her father in a car accident outside a Chicago McDonald's. Toledo, whose name Kempczinski mispelled in the text was shot and killed by a police officer.
Lightfoot had earlier visited McDonald's Chicago headquarters that day. The message was disclosed in a Freedom of Information Act request. WBEZ Chicago first reported the story.
Two ex-executives at McDonald's claimed that the message was part a pattern in racism at McDonald's.
Domineca Neal (ex-Vice President of Operations and Franchising at McDonald's) stated in a statement that Kempczinski's comments and text to Mayor Lightfoot weren't a mistake. He wasn't in a bad mood when he sent the Mayor a text; that was Christopher Kempczinski. Neal stated that he made racist statements in his official capacity of President of McDonald's USA because he believes he has the right to say anything he wants about African Americans.
McDonald's declined comment to this article regarding Neal's comments and those of others.
McDonald's Operations Officer Victoria Guster - Hines and Neal are both part of a federal suit against McDonald's. The lawsuit names Kempczinski as well as former CEO Steve Easterbrook. According to the lawsuit, filed last year it seeks to "redress intentional racial discrimination, disparate treat, disparate impact and hostile work environment and unlawful retaliation" against Black McDonald's employees.
"Kempczinski's recent text conversation with the Mayor confirms his stance towards racial prejudice. Guster-Hines stated in a statement that it was a sad reminder about his leadership style and a real slap in front of African Americans.
"Domineca, I can't let Kempczinski get away trying to avoid his racist comments regarding the tragic death of an innocent Black child. He believes her parents "failed her" by taking her to McDonald's. Guster-Hines said that no matter what context, his words always demonstrate racism."
McDonald's denies the allegations in the lawsuit.
After the lawsuit was filed, McDonald's stated that its actions were rooted in the belief that a diverse and vibrant company is more powerful.
Kempczinski wrote an apology note to US employees last week, which was viewed by Insider.
"When I wrote this, my lens was as a parent. I reacted viscerally. He wrote that he has not been in the shoes Adam's and Jaslyns families, or so many others facing a very different reality. It was wrong to not take the time to consider this from their perspective and it lacked empathy and compassion for these families. This is a lesson I will keep in my heart."
He has been attending a series listening sessions with franchisees and suppliers since then. A person who knows these conversations told Insider that Monday's session was for reflections and to have dozens of conversations about the situation with community leaders as well as employees.
Kempczinski released a video that lasted almost six minutes. Insider viewed it. He apologized for the text due to what he called a "very narrow world view".
"Those comments were incorrect, and I am sorry. I'm sorry that I let you down. Kempczinski stated that he had also let himself down in the video seen by Insider.
Some claimed that the text cast doubts on Kempczinski’s leadership.
There are concerns about his inability to judge this sensitive matter. "It calls into question his ability to manage the company," stated a former senior executive, who requested anonymity but whose identity was known to Insider.
One Black franchisee asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation and said that he shouldn't be in charge of a globally recognized brand. He is way over his head."
Others have also accused McDonald's of racial discrimination. In 2020, more than 50 Black franchisees filed a $1 billion racial-discrimination lawsuit claiming the company "systematically steered" Black owners to buy underperforming stores. An ex-manager of Black race filed a similar complaint, stating she was fired from the company for reporting racial discrimination.
McDonald's denied the claims of Black franchisees, and said that it was reviewing the manager's recent complaint.
"We don't tolerate any form of discrimination or retaliation from anyone. McDonald's responded to Insider by saying that they take the claims seriously.
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