The SCLC’s Streets to the Suites Campaign Will Target PepsiCo to Help Resolve Dispute Between the Global Food and Beverage Giant and Retired Longtime Hispanic Executive Richard Montanez
Montanez’s Legacy of Creating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for Frito-Lay is Being Challenged by the Company. SCLC President Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. Said Montanez’s Contributions Should Not Be Diminished
Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the SCLC will lead a campaign to help resolve a dispute between PepsiCo and retired, long time Hispanic executive Richard Montanez, who is known as the creator of Frito-Lay’s successful snack brand, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Montanez, who was a keynote speaker during the SCLC’s annual conference in 2017, shared his journey of climbing the corporate ladder in PepsiCo from a janitor to an executive vice president after he introduced Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to the company.
His rags to riches story has been chronicled in numerous media reports and in his recently published memoir. His life’s story will also be featured in an upcoming film by Christian Producer Devon Franklin and Hispanic American actress and director Eva Longoria. Shooting for the film is scheduled to begin this summer.
Dr. Steele said SCLC officials will seek an immediate meeting with Ramon L. Laguarta, the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, to help mediate an agreement between both sides and to protect Mr. Montanez’s legacy. The outreach by the SCLC is part of a national campaign the organization launched last fall called “From the Streets to the Suites,” targeting corporations that have been accused of discriminating against employees of color or maintaining environments that are hostile or unjust. The first protest was waged against the Nielsen Co., the global data and measurement company, which was sued by a senior Black executive for discrimination. That lawsuit was settled in March.
Dr. Steele said the timing of PepsiCo’s claims is suspect.
“PepsiCo is one of the leading companies in the world,” Dr. Steele said. “It hires the top PR and Marketing executives who are supported by the largest public relations, marketing and advertising agencies in the world. They review media reports daily. How can this story be in the public domain for years without being detected by the top executives in the world hired to protect their brand? Pepsi would not have elevated a Brown or Black man, with no high school diploma, unless he had contributed in a significant way. PepsiCo cannot disrespect a man like Richard Montanez without some fallout or repercussion.”
Dr. Steele added, “Our organization and our communities will not stand for this. We will not sit idly by and watch a valuable member of our community, who has contributed significantly, as confirmed by PepsiCo, be disrespected without evidence showing who presented the concept to the company. This idea originated in the brain of one person. This was not the creation of a team. Until proven otherwise, we will stick with Montanez’s claim. I just hope this is not systemic racism continuing in another corporation by PepsiCo refusing to grant what is due to a man who has served them well.”
ABOUT THE SCLC
Established in 1957, the SCLC, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an international organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east, and west. Its sphere of influence and interests have become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries.