joe towns

Democrats call on Tennessee to divest McDonald’s shares

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Reps. Yusuf Hakeem of Chattanooga and Joe Towns of Memphis are calling on state Treasurer David Lillard to divest Tennessee of its $80 million worth of shares in McDonald’s after 77 African-American former franchisees sued the company for allegedly denying them the same opportunities as white restaurant owners.

Here’s the letter Hakeem sent to Lillard this week:

Dear Treasurer Lillard, 

I write to concur with the request made of you by Representative Towns in September of this year to reconsider the Tennessee Treasury’s investment in McDonald’s stock. The allegations in the amended complaint filed against McDonald’s on behalf of 77 former Black franchisees are disturbing, and even more troubling is the significant decline in the number of McDonald’s Black franchisees. I share the concern expressed by Representative Towns’ that the Tennessee Treasury currently holds nearly $80 million of McDonald’s stock and I likewise believe we should use this moment to take a stand for racial equality and divest our state’s stock in McDonald’s.

Studies have shown that income inequality leads to higher rates of health and social problems. While these former franchisees sought to achieve the American dream and financial security, McDonald’s allegedly took steps to ensure that African-American owners were not afforded the same opportunity to succeed at the same levels as White franchisees financially. The State of Tennessee should not support any business that systematically engages in harmful practices to Black business owners and further widens the income gap. Sadly, the company has a well- documented history of racial discrimination and based on the allegations in the lawsuit; they still have much work to do. Until McDonald’s takes steps to correct its misdeeds, Tennesseans should not reward the company by holding onto nearly $80 million in its stock. Please call me at your convenience to discuss.

Sincerely,

/signed/

State Representative Yusuf Hakeem