What the Media Missed About Chick-Fil-A
1. LGBTQ rights supporters started boycotting Chick-fil-A years ago. Many media outlets treated Dan Cathy’s announcement as new information, though the company has been stepping up involvement in Christian Right politics since Cathy took the helm in 2001. But even his father, Truett Cathy, has donated to causes associated with the Christian Right for many years. And Chick-fil-A didn’t exactly start out as a secular business. Since Truett Cathy, a Baptist, opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967, the family business has operated according to Christian ideals like closing on Sundays. A 2007 Forbes exposé revealed just how deep the practices go — the company’s mission is to “glorify God,” and it has faced discrimination suits by plaintiffs alleging intense pressure to participate in Christian prayers, conferences and other events. Some franchises stock right-wing news media like the Washington Times or play only conservative Christian radio.
A 2009 Equality Matters report found that Chick-fil-A’s charity division, WinShape, donated more than $1 million to anti-gay groups between 2001 and 2008. In 2009 alone, $1.7 million went to anti-gay groups. Chick-fil-A has promoted the Christian Right’s alternative to Sesame Street, Veggie Tales (originally formed to oppose the allegedly “pro-homosexual agenda” at PBS), as well as Focus on the Family materials, in its kids’ meals. For at least the past decade, Chick-fil-A’s ties to the Christianright have been common knowledge among many LGBT groups and progressive organizations. Many members of these communities have been boycotting Chick-fil-A for years now.
2. Chick-fil-A mistreats its workers. I worked at a Cary, North Carolina, Chick-fil-A while in high school in the mid-’90s. The hourly wage I made was extremely low — around $6 per hour, as I recall. Once, a manager told the franchise owner that I was unfriendly to a customer, and as punishment I was forced to spend hours cleaning mildew off the floor of a back room.
It turns out that I was not the only low-level employee the company has mistreated over the years. Although Chick-fil-A boasts of how well it treats its workers, that treatment seems to apply mostly to franchise owners, who had a 2007 turnover rate of just 5 percent. But the turnover rate for hourly employees — that is, the people on the frontlines of kitchen prep and cash registers — was 60 percent. Hourly wages are quite low throughout the company. Plus, its employees are mostly non-union, so there are many opportunities for abuse.
There have been reports of extensive employee vetting, including intrusions into employees’ personal lives about issues like “personal sin.” The company saw about 12 lawsuits between 1988 and 2007. There were a range of disturbing allegations, from the termination of a Muslim employee who opted out of Christian prayers to the demotion of women for speaking out about sexual harassment. A Georgia woman alleges being fired in 1997 after being pressured by the company to stay at home with her children.
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