McDonald’s is facing additional pressure over CEO Chris Kempczinski’s text message exchange with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in which he appeared to blame the deaths of two Chicago children fatally shot earlier this year on their parents.
A coalition of community groups that protested outside the company’s headquarters last week said they sent an open letter to the Chicago-based fast food giant’s board demanding Kempczinski’s removal, joining a similar call from U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
“It’s clear to us that Chris Kempczinski can’t fix McDonald’s problems with race because Chris Kempczinski is himself part of the problem,” the community groups wrote in a news release Thursday.
The groups said they want the company to create a $200 million fund to make investments in Chicago communities, commit to a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour and set up a committee with representatives from the company, its workers and government to improve wages and working conditions.
In the texts, sent after Kempczinski and Lightfoot met at McDonald’s Chicago headquarters in April, Kempczinski referred to recent shootings that killed two Chicago children: 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams, shot in the drive-thru lane at a West Side McDonald’s, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, shot by a Chicago police officer during a foot chase in Little Village.
“With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix,” Kempczinski wrote in the message.
Last week, after the exchange became public, Kempczinski sent a note to McDonald’s U.S. corporate employees saying he was “thinking through my lens as a parent and reacted viscerally” when he wrote the message.
“But I have not walked in the shoes of Adam’s or Jaslyn’s family and so many others who are facing a very different reality,” he said. “Not taking the time to think about this from their viewpoint was wrong, and lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families.”
Community groups, including the Fight for $15 and a Union and Little Village Community Council, protested outside McDonald’s West Town headquarters the following day.
Over the weekend, media mogul Byron Allen, who filed a $10 billion lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against McDonald’s earlier this year, ran a full-page ad in the Tribune asking McDonald’s board to remove Kempczinski.
Rush joined the call Wednesday, saying in a statement that he was “utterly horrified” by the texts.
“This is a deplorable message, and one that is completely unacceptable for the CEO of a powerful multinational corporation — let alone a corporation that markets aggressively to communities of color and publicly proclaims that ‘Black lives matter’ — to espouse,” he said.
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