A coalition of racial justice, community and workers’ rights groups marched on McDonald’s downtown headquarters Wednesday to express their outrage at a racist text message the company’s CEO sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blaming the shooting deaths of two children on their parents.
In an open letter, members of the coalition demanded a meeting with the burger giant’s CEO, Chris Kempczinski, within seven days, as he faces a chorus of criticism for his message that is growing louder by the hour.
“Tragic shootings last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toledo,” wrote Kempczinski in an April 19 text message to Mayor Lightfoot, included in a 57-page public records request released to an activist. “Both the parents failed those kids, which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix.” A Chicago police officer shot and killed Toledo in Little Village while his arms were raised in the air. Adams was shot and killed and her father was wounded in a McDonald’s drive-thru near Douglass Park.
On Wednesday the children of McDonald’s workers led the coalition march on the company’s headquarters carrying a banner that read, “Dear Chris Kempczinksi: Take Care of Your Workers So They Can Take Care of Us.” Workers carried signs that read, “McDonald’s: You’re Failing Our Communities,” and ones honoring Toledo and Adams. “I am a single mother with four daughters and I know what it’s like to have to work hard to survive,” McDonald’s worker Adriana Sanchez said. “The CEO of McDonald’s doesn’t know our struggle. He can’t relate because he is wealthy and we are not.”
“There’s nothing more violent than poverty,” said Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression. “Nothing more violent than seeing a child in poverty.”
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, tweeted, “By refusing to pay workers a living wage, @McDonald’s CEO keeps Black & Brown workers in poverty while blaming them for the violence their children face. I stand w/#Fightfor15 in Chicago, marching to demand a plan to lift poor ppl up, not tear them down.” Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa tweeted, “’Failed those kids’ says the CEO profiting off childhood obesity and wages that keep families in poverty. McDonald’s fails all of America’s kids.”
Coalition Sends Letter to CEO: ‘You’re The One Who Has Failed Here’
In the open letter sent ahead of Wednesday’s protest, the coalition of racial justice, community and workers’ rights demanded Kempczinski meet with Black and brown McDonald’s workers and other members of Chicago’s communities of color within seven days. “Your text message was ignorant, racist and unacceptable coming from anyone, let alone the CEO of McDonald’s, a company that spends big money to market to communities of color and purports to stand with Black lives,” the community groups wrote. “As the leader of one of the world’s largest private employers and most iconic brands, you have a responsibility to do so much better.”
Groups signing the letter include Centro Sin Fronteras, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Chicago Fight for $15 and a Union, Color Of Change, Family Reunification, Jobs With Justice, Lincoln UMC, Little Village Community Council, Movement for Black Lives, One Fair Wage, Poor People’s Campaign, Right 2 Family, SEIU Healthcare IL/IN/MO/KS, SEIU Local 1 and Showing Up For Racial Justice.
“Tweets and advertising cannot hide the deep-seated racism laid bare in your text message to the mayor,” the community groups added in their letter. “As the leader of one of the world’s largest private employers and most iconic brands, you have a responsibility to do so much better. Also Wednesday, Chicago McDonald’s worker Kenia Campeano started an online petition on MoveOn.org calling on Kempczinski to “address racism at McDonald’s and beyond.” Across the country, McDonald’s has faced multiple major racial discrimination lawsuits in recent years, a searing indictment of a company that has sought to proclaim it “stands against systemic oppression.”