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Civil rights leader calls out company

Jesse Jackson offers support to Herb Washington in suit

Two-time presidential candidate and civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. has offered a letter supporting McDonald’s franchisee Herb Washington in his lawsuit against McDonald’s USA.

A public relations firm assisting Washington released a letter from Jackson on Thursday, saying McDonald’s “needs to implement a respect-based plan for black operators” and that Jackson “will be in contact with the executive leadership of McDonald’s regarding these issues.”

Washington, who lives in Mahoning County and runs seven McDonald’s restaurants in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, alleges McDonald’s used racial discrimination against him and other black franchise owners and retaliated against Washington when he spoke up about it.

McDonald’s has stated in reply to Washington’s allegations that the issues Washington is raising are “the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington.”

The letter says Jackson, 79, recently learned of of the litigation filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by Washington, “whom I met in the 80s while running for president. Herb Washington is a man of integrity, having served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank for many years.”

Jackson’s letter continues, “His lawsuit against McDonald’s has my attention, and I am concerned about its resolution.”

It notes: “There is a growing crisis emerging between McDonald’s and its black owner operators, who have historically been allies and the face of the corporation.

“Although McDonald’s has made tremendous strides over the years, there seems to be an adverse wind blowing in the face of its black operators.”

The letter is written under the letterhead of the national headquarters of the Rainbow Push Coalition, headquartered in Chicago, of which Jackson is founder and president.

Washington at one time had 27 McDonald’s restaurants but has 14 now because McDonald’s “tightly controls who may enter its system,” restricting who the franchisee can sell its restaurants to and forcing owners to sell restaurants that do not meet certain standards, Washington and his lawyers have said.

“As part of its effort to reduce black ownership in its system, McDonald’s targeted Mr. Washington for unfair grading and assessments designed to render him ineligible to continue to operate his restaurants,” the suit states.

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