McDonald’s CEO draws outrage over text message about teens killed in Chicago

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski made comments about the recent deaths of teens that some are calling racist.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski has sparked outrage over remarks about the shooting deaths of two Chicago children that activists have slammed for being “ignorant, racist and unacceptable.”

A coalition of community activists and employees of the fast-food franchise organized a protest at the McDonald’s headquarters Wednesday following the revelation of a text exchange between Kempczinski and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

In the April 19 exchange, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by a local activist, Kempczinski had an exchange with Lightfoot who had visited McDonald’s headquarters earlier that day. He made mention of the fatal shootings of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams and 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

“p.s. tragic shootings in last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toldeo [sic]. With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix,” Kempczinski wrote.

This April 30, 2019, file photo, shows a McDonald’s restaurant on the Northside of Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Just the day before Adams was killed on Chicago’s West Side by a gunman while sitting at a McDonald’s drive-thru with her father. A few weeks earlier on March 29, Toledo was also killed by a Chicago Police officer.

“He doesn’t know the circumstances of these parents,” said Adriana Sanchez, one of the many franchise employees who was angered by the message. “A large number of them are single mothers who are just doing their best and sacrifice.”

Sanchez also echoed the sentiments of many, noting that Kempczinski is “putting the blame on parents for the violence in the streets. He can’t relate because he is wealthy, and we are not, and he doesn’t understand our struggle.”

“Oftentimes we have to work two jobs because the wages are so low; we’re forced to sometimes leave our kids at home alone to go to work,” she continued. “We have to do the job of two or three employees and they allow customers to mistreat us.”

Chris Kempczinski
Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s USA, speaks at the unveiling of McDonald’s new corporate headquarters during a grand opening ceremony on June 4, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Little Village Community Council, a group that has called for justice in the police killing of Toledo and which was present at this week’s demonstrations, stood in solidarity with the employees who took issue with their CEO being so tone-deaf about what’s happening in their community.

“[Kempczinski’s] words are very dangerous,” said Baltazar Enriquez, president of the council. “He’s not bringing any solutions to our community. Our community has given millions of dollars, billions of dollars, to the McDonald’s corporation.”

Enriquez also suggested that instead of blaming the families of the victims Kempczinski “should put his money where his mouth is.”

“If he really feels that it’s the mothers’ fault, of them being the culprits of their kids’ deaths, then he should fund our communities with all the profits that he takes,” he said.

An open letter sent to Kempczinski on Wednesday morning by McDonald’s workers and community groups calls for the CEO to meet with Black and brown employees and community leaders in Chicago over the next few days to “tell us what your plan is to address systemic racism at McDonald’s and beyond.”

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