- McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempzinski has apologized multiple times to US employees after a text exchange with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the shooting deaths of two children.
- Kempzinski said that his texts were “wrong, plain and simple”. He addressed the McDonald’s US system at headquarters on Monday and virtually.
- The company is facing multiple lawsuits from former executives and current and former franchisees alleging racial bias.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski met with employees at the company’s headquarters on Monday and the executive discussed a text message exchange with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the shooting deaths of two children.
Last week, Kempczinski apologized multiple times for his comments after the texts were made public.
In a message Tuesday to US employees obtained by CNBC, Kempczinski said he had written to Lightfoot to thank Mayer for visiting the company’s headquarters in April. The visit happened on the day 7-year-old Jasleen Adams was fatally shot while sitting at a McDonald’s drive-thru. It came soon after 13-year-old Adam Toledo was killed by a Chicago police officer in March. In turn, Kempczynski said, “parents fail those children.” The texts were made public by activists and were widely reported in the past week, leading to protests and protests at McDonald’s headquarters.
Kempzinski said in Tuesday’s message, “From their point of view it was wrong not to take the time to think about it, and the empathy and compassion I feel for these families was lacking. It’s a lesson that I carry with me.” I’ll take it.”
On Friday, Kempczinski announced plans to hold talks with employees on Monday, adding: “As I shared in my note earlier this week, my texts to the mayor of Chicago were wrong – plain and simple. I’m really sorry and I know I let you down. I also know it contradicts our values - values that you all have worked so hard to inculcate in the business.”
Kempzinski said he holds himself accountable for the work he must do and hopes to regain the trust of the company and the communities he serves.
On Saturday, Kempzinski also recorded a video message to McDonald’s US system, which included his reflections on the week. In this he again apologized. “I’m sorry I let you down. And I let myself down,” he said.
He also stated that he has a “very narrow worldview” through his own background and that his comments reveal his ignorance. A person familiar with the distribution of the video said the message was sent to employees, franchisees and suppliers.
A source in the franchise leadership said some restaurant owners did not believe the apology and there were widespread concerns about how the situation could affect employee morale during challenging times in the labor market. Franchise owners and McDonald’s corporate employees have nodded over the past year regarding operational issues.
McDonald’s declined to comment. However, a person familiar with Kempczynski’s plans said he held several short hearing sessions, including one involving the elected franchise leadership, where he apologized.
In an open letter to Kempczinski last week, a coalition of activists for Color of Change, One Fair Wage and Showing Up for Racial Justice criticized the CEO’s message, saying, “Your text message was ignorant, racist and unacceptable. McDonald’s Let alone the CEO of the U.S., a company that spends big money for communities of color in the marketplace and claims to stand with Black Lives.”
Kempczinski has been CEO for nearly two years, stepping into that role after the company fired former CEO Steve Easterbrook for violating its code of conduct. McDonald’s is facing multiple lawsuits alleging racial discrimination from former executives and current and former franchises.