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U.S. Companies Promote Gender Apartheid in Saudi Arabia

McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King all promote sex discrimination in Saudi Arabia as these restaurants “all have two designated areas: one for families and the other for singles, all males,” said Ann Rozenich, an employee of McDonald’s in the communications office. “The restaurants also have two separate entrances.” In a letter written to Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King, an American official just returned from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia also cited Pizza Hut and Starbucks as two other U.S. companies that have segregated dining areas. The official said, “The men’s sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women’s or families’ sections are often run-down, neglected, and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands.” The official also suggested that this segregation and discrimination may not be an enforced law, as Dunkin’ Donuts did not have sex-segregated eating areas.

King compares U.S. companies’ policies in Saudi Arabia to apartheid in South Africa but cited how U.S. companies, following the led of Leon Sullivan of General Motors, resisted implementing apartheid in the workplace and eventually used their influence to help eradicate apartheid altogether. So far, most U.S. companies in Saudi Arabia have shown no inclination to challenge sex discrimination there. According to Rozenich, McDonald’s has to respect Saudi customs. King forces us to ask the question, would McDonald’s respect Saudi customs if the discrimination were against blacks or any other group? Would Americans tolerate McDonald’s, or any other U.S. company, if it did?

TAKE ACTION! Call or fax the CEOs of McDonald’s, Pizza Hit, and Starbucks and tell them to end their discriminatory policies against women. McDonald’s (630) 623-3000; fax (630) 623-5004 Pizza Hut (800) 948-8488; fax (972) 338-7780 Starbucks (206) 447-1575 x 82900; fax (206) 447-0828

Sources:

Washington Post, 12/22/01; WAC! WomenÕs Action Connectiv