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Black Gas Station Owner Alleges Racism



Eric Banks' RaceWay location in Shreveport, Louisiana

ATLANTA -- A nationwide boycott is being called against Raceway Petroleum, the Atlanta GA-headquartered parent company that controls more than 600 RaceTrac gas stations nationwide. The company is being cited for racist treatment of its black-owned gas station operators.

 

Eric Banks, an historically black college and university (HBCU) graduate of Grambling State University, operates the only two black-owned RaceTrac/Raceway gas stations in the country with his family. Citing retaliation and intimidation in response to numerous emails to Raceway/RaceTrac corporate executives about the corporation's failure to honor the provisions of its franchising agreement, specifically RaceTrac management's harassment and botched maintenance repairs of leased equipment required to be maintained by the company per the franchise operating agreement, Banks and his family were given a 90-day notice stating the company had determined Banks and his family no longer are the "right fit" for their Ruston, LA location. The notice went on to inform Banks that his Ruston gas station will be offered to another operator whom Banks has confirmed is not black.

 

Banks' Ruston, RaceTrac gas station is situated in a predominately "white, republican neighborhood" that currently is undergoing extensive upscale development. Former NBA player Karl Malone is building a shopping center down the street and other new businesses have been or are being constructed. "RaceTrac has strong armed and intimidated black operators for too long while ‘pumping' hundreds of millions of dollars from black communities with virtually no black ownership," says Banks. "Their efforts are part of a long, and well-documented history of failing to offer equal access and opportunity to black owners and when we do have an opportunity, the company makes every effort to undermine our success."

Since purchasing the gas station in 2008, the Banks family has endured limited or obstructed access due to highway construction, but the major obstructions to their operations have come directly from Raceway Petroleum in the form of failed or botched repairs or other franchise agreement violations by the company, designed to severely impact or cripple Banks' ability to service his customers, which ultimately impacts the station's profitability. "The RaceTrac Petroleum contract expressly states we are ‘independent owner/operators' and they have no say in how we run our business," asserts Banks. "But they have regularly given our employees direct instructions and attempted to regulate how we manage and operate our locations. It's not only a violation of our contract with them; it's a direct attempt to circumvent basic franchise protections under federal law," insists Banks.

Not only have Banks and his family garnered thousands of signatures of support from loyal white, black and Latino patrons, their Ruston, LA location, once operationally-defunct, has set record sales volumes since the family took it over in 2008. The Ruston location also holds special significance for Banks because it's where over 12 members of the family attended college, and dreamed of one day returning to provide employment not only to local college students but also to ex-offenders committed to rejoining and contributing to their communities. "This is not just a gas station," declares Banks, "it is a place of hope for the un-employable; a place where they can earn an honest living and avoid returning to their past lives."

Raceway Petroleum executives have cited in their 90-day notice that Banks and his family "are no longer the right fit for this upscale location". Company officials also have informed Banks that he and his family could pursue other RaceTrac locations elsewhere at a later date, but "just not here, not now".

Banks and his family are determined to fight the company's decision: "Our patrons love our service and they don't understand why RaceTrac would do this," offers Banks. Amid allegations that the prior owners not only stole local patron's credit card numbers, but also absconded with more than $100K in fuel funds from RaceTrac, Banks and his family have vowed to stay put. "The former owners - and Raceway Petroleum - totally violated the community's trust," asserts Banks, "a trust that we painstakingly have earned back and we demand the right to continue to serve our patrons and our community!"

 



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