McDonald’s is denying a report made by Vice Media that claims that its recent collaborations with Travis Scott and J Balvin were launched as a cover-up for racial discrimination lawsuits filed earlier this 2020.
Historians Chin Jou and Marcia Chatelain, who also serves as an American studies professor at the University of Sydney and an African American studies professor at Georgetown University, respectively, have deeply followed the fast-food chain’s “complicated relationship” with race in America, and suggested in the Vice report that the company released the collaborations as “an attempt to try to shore up brand recognition and brand loyalty for McDonald’s on the part of consumers of color.”
McDonald’s replied in a statement, “Any claim that McDonald’s collaboration with Travis Scott was launched in response to recent litigation is completely false. We teamed up with Travis—and our newest celebrity partner, J Balvin—because of their love for the McDonald’s brand, their widespread appeal and their loyal following among our younger customers and our crew.” It continued, ”In regards to the litigation—these allegations fly in the face of everything we stand for as an organization and as a partner to communities and small business owners around the world. Not only do we categorically deny the allegations, but we are confident that the facts will show how committed we are to the diversity and equal opportunity of the McDonald’s System, including across our franchisees, suppliers and employees.”
The Vice report follows a pair of lawsuits, both centered on racial discrimination, that were filed this 2020. The first suit was filed by Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, two Black former senior vice presidents who claim that McDonald’s “conducted a ruthless purge” of its Black higher-ups and created this “hostile and abusive work environment” for its Black executives and franchise owners. It further notes that the number of Black employees in more senior positions lowered from 42 in 2014 to only seven in 2019, and that Guster-Hines and Neal were demoted from their executive positions in 2018 allegedly due to their race.
The second lawsuit was filed by a total of 52 Black franchise owners asserting that McDonald’s put them through decades of “systematic and covert racial discrimination.” The fast-food company supposedly coerced them into opening restaurants in low-income, high-crime locations where “sales were lower than the nationwide average, operating costs were higher, and employee turnover was rampant.” Black franchise owners were also reportedly provided with less financial support and crueler internal reviews as compared to white franchisees.
Elsewhere in food and beverage, COVID-19 has forced Ruby Tuesday to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.