Social activists and union leaders in Chicago want McDonald's chief executive Chris Kempczinski to sit down with black and black workers and "talk about organized discrimination" at a fast food company in response to his text message which they say is "ignorant, discriminatory and unacceptable."
In an open letter signed by twelve parties last week, Kempczinski was given a Wednesday deadline to meet with workers and community leaders in Chicago. The text message was part of his conversation with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in April, the day after the shooting of a 7-year-old girl, Jaslyn Adams, while on her way to McDonald's with her father on the West Side of the city. . Last month, the city was in a state of shock due to the shooting of police officers of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, at a Latino densely populated Little Village.
Kempczinski texted Lightfoot thanking him for a visit to the Chicago-based company headquarters and wrote that the recent shooting was "sad," adding, "in both cases, parents fail those children which I know you can't say. It's hard to fix."
Lightfoot replied, "Thank you, Chris. It's good to see you in person," and called the events a "terrible tragedy."
Text exchange gained momentum last week after activists received a request for public records and shared them on social media. Among the critics was Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a member of the Hispanic Caucus of the City Council.
Kempczinski apologized several times after the text was released, CNBC reported.
"Not giving myself time to think about this from their point of view is wrong, and I have not had the compassion and empathy for these families," he said in a message he wrote to staff last week. "This is the lesson I'm going to take."
He met with company employees Monday at the company's headquarters and online to discuss the document, and held hearings, including elected franchise leadership, reports CNBC.
McDonald's declined to comment on Tuesday about a meeting or letter from civil society and trade unions.
Lightfoot's office said in a statement that "families do everything they can - mothers, fathers, grandparents - to love and support their children, and tragedies can still happen. The humiliation of the victims has no place in this discussion."
Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, a non-profit organization that signed the letter to Kempczinski, said he wanted the CEO to publicly support policies that benefit all top employees, especially those on low incomes and who want to integrate.
But if Kempczinski fails to meet with workers, Enriquez said, he will push for a strike. Little Village has three McDonald's locations, he added.
"If he wants to defend himself, we will defend him," Enriquez said. "We will close this McDonald's."
Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which promotes police accountability, said Kempczinski's article illustrates "a long history of insensitivity."
"McDonald's is a multibillion-dollar organization," he said. "They sell a lot of hamburgers in black and black communities and employ a lot of people in the black and black community. So his arrival to talk about apartheid is unacceptable. And it was a racist statement - we know the difference. Between insults and compliments."
McDonald's has been experiencing problems in recent years regarding staff complaints of sexual harassment in restaurants and racism. In 2020, two black officials filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and a hostile workplace under the company's former chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, who was forcibly dismissed in November 2019 because of a relationship with an employee. Kempczinski replaced Easterbrook.
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In addition, Byron Allen, a Los Angeles-based black news official, has published full-page advertisements in major newspapers in recent days accusing Kempczinski of promoting McDonald's "toxic culture of racism" and asking the board of directors to remove him. Two companies under Allen have filed a lawsuit this year accusing McDonald's of discriminating against black-owned media companies.
McDonald's has denied the allegations in a number of cases.
Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, who has supported striking McDonald's restaurant workers to earn a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, agreed with Allen's ad. In a statement sent by NBC News, Henry said Kempczinski should be removed "as one of the many steps needed to deal with racist workers for years."
The union also sponsored a new controversial advertisement for Kempczinski's writings and urged him to "meet with his staff and the Chicago community."
McDonald's, the world's largest hamburger, has become one of the largest American companies to put diversity first following months of racial justice protests last year. In February, the company announced that it would deduct 15 percent of executives' bonuses to meet certain criteria, including diversity and inclusion. The move came after some black business owners sued McDonald's, accusing the company of treating white owners better and that franchises in low-income areas were unprofitable and extremely difficult to implement.
Most of McDonald's properties - about 95 percent - are owned by franchises.
McDonald's has denied the allegations, and a federal judge dismissed one such case in June.