Community Blasts Reed for Defending Cracker Barrel against NAACP (UPDATE 1)


(APN) ATLANTA — “Once again, it’s clear to voters that Kasim Reed cannot relate to, and has no interest in understanding, the struggles and values of the average working Atlanta family. His work as an attorney for major corporations who have abused and discriminated against their employees shows that he is completely out of step with the needs of everyday Atlantans. Over the years, Kasim Reed has shown a pattern of dodging his tax liabilities, failing to connect with everyday voters, and siding with billion dollar corporations over working families,” State Rep. Ralph Long said in a written statement obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

Previously, APN broke the news that Reed had worked as a corporate attorney defending Cracker Barrel, a construction firm, a real estate investment firm, and a health care company against cases brought by apparently victimized workers including cases of sex discrimination, race discrimination, under-compensation, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Most of the cases resulted in large settlements for the workers, including a $3.5 million settlement for the class of Cracker Barrel workers.

Reed defended Cracker Barrel, despite its history of not serving to Black customers, nor allowing homosexual employees. In that case, Reed went up against the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which filed on behalf of the workers in one of several cases brought against the restaurant chain.

“Why should voters trust Kasim Reed to have their best interests in mind at City Hall when he has built his career fighting against them in court?” Long wrote.

“Kasim Reed is clearly the candidate of the status quo – the candidate who will protect corporations and the well-connected at the expense of the taxpayers. Mary Norwood will be a Mayor who works for the people of Atlanta, not just the corporations, developers and political patrons,” Long said.

Meanwhile, Norwood affirmed she has “always supported” workers’ rights. “Charlie [Flemming of the AFL-CIO] can’t believe anybody living in my part of the city [Tuxedo Park, Buckhead] cares about working families, and I do. I supported a livable wage, and I’ve been very progressive,” Norwood said.

“I think that Kasim Reed’s record speaks for itself,” Norwood’s campaign manager, Roman Levit, added.

“The most interesting fact of the story was the effort to remove information regarding Kasim Reed’s defense [of these corporations] from his biography and materials on Holland & Knight’s website,” Kyle Bailey, a glbt activist and former Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats, told APN.

“As a candidate for office, you should put your full record out there and let voters decide… not go back with a Sharpie and take out anything voters may not like… and block out pieces of his history,” Bailey said. “To me, that’s the most concerning part of it.”

“It raises a red flag, including with the old school activists who rememeber what Cracker Barrel did in the 1990s,” Bailey said.

One of those activists who protested Cracker Barrel was Larry Pellegrini, director of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit; Pellegrini is a Reed supporter.

“There are a lot of firms that have a variety of viewpoints amongst their attorneys and the cases the firm takes isn’t always in synch perhaps with personal philosophies,” Pellegrini said.

When APN noted that Reed himself had taken several of the controversial cases, “When you work somewhere, you often have things that get assigned to you. It’s happened to me,” Pellegrini said.

“And Kasim left that firm [Paul Hastings Janofsky] too, you know. When you’re working for a place, there are often times we’ve had assignments to do things or things we can’t react to immediately, but we get out of that situation,” Pellegrini said.

Activist Dwanda Farmer–who recently ran for the Council Post 1-at-large seat–doesn’t agree with that analysis. “He could’ve left before he took those cases. It doesn’t matter that he left afterwards,” Farmer said.

In addition, as previously reported by APN, according to Reed’s job description at Holland & Knight which had been published online until it was scrubbed from the website, after he left Paul Hastings and went to Holland & Knight, he continued to fight against worker complaints on behalf of big corporations, both in court and with state and federal agencies dealing with equal opportunity.

Pellegrini recalls his work protesting Cracker Barrel. “I was with that whole campaign for years. I spent years on the front lines and then afterwards pressuring the company. I still retain a share of Cracker Barrel so every year I can go to their meetings,” Pellegrini said.

“Cracker Barrel demonstrations here led to many changes nationally. It really was a spark to the movement of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It was proven by the engagement of people around the country in the Cracker Barrel protests that employment was a key issue for the lgbt community,” Pellegrini said.

“I was on the team that exposed a lot… We researched Cracker Barrel and their practices. This was a two-year campaign… every other Sunday was a scheduled sit-in. There were arrests, I got to film my own arrest when they came to arrest me,” Pellegrini said.

“We looked at their practices, at the family that owned it, where they were coming from. Their board had no women, they had no African Americans in their entire company structure. They sold mammy dolls. They put confederate flags up in the store. And sold we speak southern books and played Amos and Andy,” Pellegrini said.

“And they could not defend themselves,” Pellegrini recalled.

However, Pellegrini said he is still backing Reed despite learning of his support for Cracker Barrel and other corporations, based on Pellegrini’s work with former State Sen. Reed in the Georgia legislature where he says he’s gotten to see the “real” Reed over several years.

Former State Rep. Able Mable Thomas also reacted to the article today. “My first expression was oh my god, I can’t believe it. After that, I continued to read the article, then it became clear that his role as an attorney is one to defend the interests of clients at any costs,” Thomas said.

“I was very surprised for him to get support from organized labor based upon some of the information I read in that article,” Thomas said.

“It seems to me the most appalling thing about the story is, one of the cases was brought by the NAACP, that usually stands up for the rights of working people and people being discriminated against,” Thomas said.

“For the NAACP to have taken on this case, it means they have done their due diligence and it was a strong case for that particular plaintiff at that time, so I was very, very surprised that [it was] something dealing with the company Cracker Barrel- with the overall consistent pattern that has been shown as it relates to Cracker Barrel as it relates to the treatment of African Americans at their locations over the country, really,” Thomas said.

Thomas also disagreed that Reed was just doing his job. “Regardless of what your position is, you always have the option to use your conscience,” Thomas said.

“I think it would be unconscionable to represent Cracker Barrel because even as a beginning attorney, he has had to have heard of the challenges related to the Cracker Barrel corporation,” Thomas said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, State Rep. Ralph Long and former State Rep. Mable Thomas have endorsed Norwood. As other media outlets have reported, Kyle Bailey has also endorsed Norwood. One reader asked why this information was not included in the original story, and it is simply because in two cases, we already had reported it, and in the other, it is already public knowledge. However, we have added the information in an abundance of caution that some readers may not already aware of these important endorsements.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at

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