In for a penny. In for a pound.

The internets and the air waves are aflame!  But, what is that which is burning?  It’s old news that has come to light, again.  While there is a whole paper to be written on that phenomenon, we’re going to move on to a more important aspect right now.  At least in this case, the news is still relevant, and that is why there are more important aspects that we should focus on.

I previously wrote on the importance of our economic vote.  In short, where you shop does, in fact, matter.  It is a constantly updating list also.  For example, I have recently become aware that I will have to forgo my occasional late night trips to Waffle House , because of their sizable corporate contributions to Karl Rove’s superPAC, American Crossroads.  As we, as consumers, make our choices, our impact will be felt, or our apathy will be shown.  Either way, we are making our stand.

  • Bringing Chick-fil-A back to the forefront of the news this week though are several events:As Equality Matters had reported in March, I linked to in April and we have actually known for at least a decade, Chick-fil-A through their charitable foundation, WinShape has been consistently giving to anti-gay marriage groups.  However, in an interview posted July 16th, the COO, Dan Cathy, acknowledged that, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”  (We’ll accept that he’s not talking about all the various biblical definitions of marriage, and only the currently popular one man-one woman definition, since that’s the most likely definition to which he was referring….)  Snopes goes on to add other quotes that are even more damning, but that I can’t validate so I won’t include here.
  • The letter from Mayor Thomas M Menino of Boston to Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, strongly suggesting that Chick-fil-A abandon plans to find a location within Boston.
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the statement that Chick-fil-A’s “values are not Chicago values.”
  • San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee tweeted,  “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”

I have a very good friend who grew up going to the original location in Jonesboro, GA.  He maintains that these positions are not consistent with the S. Truett Cathy who founded the chain and that his grandfather introduced him to repeatedly.  Now, the original Mr. Cathy is still alive and kicking and is still, at least titularly, the Chairman and CEO at 91.  Is he actively involved in the company any more?  Who’s to say?  He has not, that I’ve seen, been quoted in the latest flaps.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  It is the corporate position.

This same friend has expressed that he feels torn because the 975 franchisees (in 2007) spent years building up the business and wonders if these franchisees should be held accountable for the corporate policies.  Also, he points out that while he worked there in the past, the franchisee that he worked for, hired gay employees.

There is a significant flaw in this reasoning.  It is the same flaw that so many people in American make, and it is such a fundamental flaw that when I was having the conversation with him, it didn’t strike me at first either.  It wasn’t until later that it hit me.

This is precisely the reasoning that comes from the same line as those who would demand their rights without accepting their corresponding responsibilities.

The franchisees have benefited from the marketing and the “good name” of the Chick-fil-A corporation for the last 65 years.  They have benefited from the recipes.  The name recognition.  They’ve benefited in every way possible from the positives – the rights – of being associated with the Chick-fil-A name/brand.  And, now, it’s time to fully pay the piper.

They have certainly paid the franchise fees, which have historically been ridiculously low, by industry standards, thanks to the “cult like” screening process which allowed Chick-fil-A to make sure they were filtering out all of the “undesirables”.  These processes involved literally dozens of interviews over the courses of years.  Then, instead of charging a franchise fee of $25,000, like KFC does, Chick-fil-A would only charge $5,000.  Of course, they also made up for this in other ways.  It was no accident that their franchisees were earning roughly 1/3 what other franchisees were bringing in.  They have paid for their product, of course.



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About Just Torch

Author of the SCIAMAGE column a space devoted to American political and social commentary and analysis. It is unabashedly liberal, but makes every effort to present clear, verifiable facts and sound reasoning. It also makes a commitment to clearly distinguish between facts and opinions. View all posts by Just Torch

7 responses to “In for a penny. In for a pound.

  • John Stepp

    More to the point, the character of the local franchisee is irrelevant. Money spent at Chick-fil-a puts more money behind Mr. Cathy’s political action. The local franchisee *is* supporting Cathy’s action, just as every customer does…knowingly or not.

    The fiction of separation of business and politics only works if business owners (the rich) restrict themselves to their single vote. As soon as they deploy their wealth for political cause, *they* have entangled their businesses with their personal political agenda, and they should be held accountable for such in the marketplace.

  • Dave T.

    Even if Dan Cathy quiets down about his anti-gay agenda it won’t stop the money from flowing to promote his point of view. It’s hugely ironic that it all hinges on the Bible and that the Biblical passages are either poorly understood or in the case of Leviticus they are rules for Jews alone, not Christians. So Cathy just probably feels icky about homosexuality, fears his own urges, and finds thin excuses in his tailored view of Christianity. Tolerant people can probably have an impact on the bottom line so boycotting their 500 calorie sandwiches is a good start, but ironically the right wing is reporting that they are going out of their way to give the chain business.

    • Just Torch

      Thanks for reading. There are many poorly understood passages of the bible, and while I have studied them, I was specifically trying to avoid the biblical debate. I also will not personally engage in nor endorse any attacks on or speculation about Dan Cathy’s personal sexuality as I don’t think that is either relevant or conducive to a viable political discussion.

      However, you are right. The right has called for additional anti-boycott activity, and the net effect may be a wash for their bottom line. In the end though, I believe that the attention that has been paid has already had an effect. The Cathy family has already announced that they are backing out of this debate. Should we on the left maintain continued pressure, then I think we will have the desired effect in the long term, but it isn’t going to be overnight.

  • Jamie

    I fully agree with the larger point you are making; franchisees of any company are in fact an extention of that company despite being individually owned. Most franchise agreements, to my knowledge, allow the corporation to pull the franchise’s ownership away for violating company policies. The vast majority of the time it never comes up as a problem, but still it is a compliance.

    In the long run this will be a non-issue. Chick-fil-a fill continue to be a major fast food company, people will stop caring about Cathy’s anti-gay stance and still shop there. Conversely, those supporters of the anti-gay agenda won’t make it a habit of going the Chick-fil-a twice a week forever.

    There will always be a small percentage of the population that will either stay away or patronize them for years, but that is a very minute percentage. Overall, this will be ancient history by October for most everyone.

    • Just Torch

      Unfortunately, you are likely right. People by and large do not have the staying power to maintain a boycott these days. However, there is a counter-force in play, too, which is the 24 hour news cycle. Cathy has already announced that they will be backing out of the debate. If they stop contributing to these causes, then a kind of victory has already been won. Personally, I will not be shopping there any more, period, but then I am stubborn and have more staying power than most. I remember that at the same time that it came out that Food Lion discriminated against gay employees, it also came out that Chick-fil-A did. This is NOT news. It has only just come back up into the news cycle. This is not a new stance for me.

      I do miss their yummy sandwiches though. Yummy by comparison to other fast food. I can make better at home.

  • joeysnackpants

    I completely agree with ‘voting with your wallet’, it has a much more important voice than even the ballot box on many issues.

    I never thought I would agree with Rahm Emanuel… I don’t think Chick-fil-a is into government corruption, bribery or the purchasing of ‘elected’ offices… but I have been wrong before.

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