December 9, 2012
Pizza Politics: My Falling Out with Papa John’s
Alright, there’s been a lot of attention lately on different CEO’s and their asinine comments that lead consumers to protest or boycott their products. The big one in the summer was Chik-Fil-A, who gave funds not only to organizations that were against gay marriage, but to organizations that were working to keep EXECUTING gays in Uganda legal. Disgusting, right?
Now I personally will never eat there again, despite the fact that I believe they serve a damn good product and always have amazing customer service, because to purchase anything there, knowing what I know, would be supporting them monetarily in what they do with their money they choose to donate and supporting them in principle, which I can’t do. This weirdly yielded a lot of controversy on Facebook, with inane comments like, “It’s just chicken!!!” If you think that, I hate to tell you, you’re fucking delusional. And while of course Chik-Fil-A is within their rights to do whatever they want with their money, I am also utilizing my right to free speech when I decide to NEVER eat there again, because you know, I like my gay friends.
*I’ve decided to nix the whole “no swearing” thing as a whole. This ain’t yo mama’s feminist blog, and as Lewis Black says, these are adults words and we adults use them because often it is appropriate. “Oh, fiddlesticks, the right is trying to get all up in my uterus again,” just doesn’t have the same effect as a good old fashioned “fuck” does.
What it comes down to, for me, anyways, is deciding to try to be a thoughtful consumer. With technology at my fingertips, it isn’t incredibly difficult to find out what organizations do with money they donate and how they treat their employees. The Human Rights Campaign has a pretty cool Corporate Equality Index, and there are more out there that can tell you where companies stand on whatever particular issue you care a lot about. The fact is, money is speech. Hell, just ask the Supreme Court. Where you spend your money says something about you, especially if you know something about where they spend their money. Within reason, I’ve made a commitment to try to only spend my money with businesses that are reasonably aligned with my values.
Sadly, sometimes your taste buds and values don’t mix. Now, this is cheesy (baha) but to be honest, I really enjoy Papa John’s pizza. I’ve always loved it, and I have tons of childhood memories involving their delicious pineapple and ham pizza. I remember spending whole summers at my neighborhood pool, and feeling like a total baller when I was ten years old and able to have pizza delivered there for my friends and I since I babysat all the time and was as financially independent as a kid could get.
You know where this is going. John Schnatter, owner and founder of Papa John’s made a ton of comments about how detrimental Obamacare would be to his business. I would love to go on a rant about the other CEO’s who threw tons of temper tantrums, but we’ll focus on Papa John himself, for now. Pretty much, he bitched about how offering health insurance to his employees would increase costs per pizza by 14 cents, and that to get around this HUGE financial burden he planned on cutting employee hours to loop around the law.
Where to even begin? Well, I ended up writing a letter on their website, because obviously I can’t be the only one who is pissed about this. So I sent this a couple weeks ago, after navigating through their website to find a place to send comments;
“I have been a Papa John’s customer for over a decade. It is by far my favorite pizza (ham and pineapple, best ever). And I regret to say that after hearing your CEO’s comments about needing to raise the price of pizza and cut hours for workers because of Obamacare, I will not be spending my money with you ever again, or until this statement and course of action is changed.
I am not alone, there are a lot of people who feel the same way, and we are really unimpressed with you, Mr. Schnatter. To think that you can’t cover your employees’ healthcare, but you can give away 2 million free pizzas for a football promotion is preposterous, insulting, and just absolutely disgusting and un-American. Let’s not even start on the ridiculous mansion you house yourself in, while you question your ability to increase costs minimally so that your employees can be healthier (and happier, more productive) employees.
I truly hope you take comments like these to heart, not only so I can enjoy your Hawaiian pizza again, but so that your employees can feel that they work for a company that gladly cares for their interests, not just complies to a law that treats them like whole people.”
Now, I was right. I was not the only person Papa pissed off. A study showed that Papa John’s favorability dropped from 32 points to 4 around the time when he said these comments.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad place for pizza, I love their pizza! And their employees are awesome. What grinds my gears is that this jackass lives in a castle, a motherfucking CASTLE, that he was able to purchase with his company’s profits from his employees that are doing the hard work of actually making all these pizzas and doing the day to day work of actually running these restaurants.
There is this massive disconnect with values here. First of all, Forbes suggests that the actual cost of Obamacare will actually be about 5-9 cents more per pizza, less than Papa’s estimate. But seriously, what the hell is that compared to caring about the welfare of your employees? Employees who have health insurance are healthier and happier, which obviously is better for business, and it’s just simply the right thing to do.
When it comes to providing your employees with healthcare, to make it all about the minimal extra cost it will be is just sinful. Go tell a family with a little girl who’s really sick that she can’t go get the tests she needs because it costs you more, while you sleep in a mansion. Or anyone who is really sick and should go see a doctor but doesn’t because they don’t want a massive bill. It’s just disgusting to me.
Now, I said I wouldn’t eat there again until the CEO changes his tune, and apparently he has. Sort of. “We will honor this law, as we do all laws, and continue to offer 100% of Papa John’s corporate employees and workers in company-owned stores health insurance as we have since the company was founded in 1984.” He then went on about what he said was taken out of context, although reading more of it pretty much confirms that he seems like a total jerk to me.
What brought this to the forefront of my mind is that I just got an email informing me that I won one of the free 2 millions pizzas Papa John’s is giving out. Cuz, you know, that too is more important than providing your workers with affordable insurance. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, I mean, I’m guessing it is coincidence but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was being baited with pizza. This led to more debate between some commenters on facebook about whether or not I was going against my principles by accepting this free pizza, even though I wouldn’t be giving them any money of my own. One person suggested I get the pizza and donate it to a shelter or something, which is what I’ve decided to do.
So yeah, after waiting for him to retract his statement and explain, I only felt worse. “Schnatter wrote that his remarks to a class at a Florida college were taken out of context. According to his telling, he was asked if franchise owners would cut back hours to make them part time in order to keep from having to provide health insurance. “Well, in Hawaii there is a form of the same kind of health insurance and that’s what you do, you find loopholes to get around it,” he responded. “That’s what they’re going to do.” He also called it “common sense” that some business owners would cut hours to avoid paying for health insurance.”
Of course, like I said in the beginning, it’s pretty easy to get around this predicament. There are TONS of good LOCAL pizza places in my area, and really it’s always better to go local anyway. Weirdly I began a new love affair with pizza in Colorado, and never once was it from a chain, so I can boycott Papa John’s without missing out on super yummy food.
I mean, I’m going out on a limb here but I’m pretty sure none of my favorite local pizza joints hosted fundraiser dinners (you know, +$10,000 a plate to attend) for Mittens.