Boycotts – The Original Slacktivist Hideout

Today is the one year anniversary of the great marketing ploy “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day“. Designed to raise awareness of CFA’s commitment to biblical values and increase the profitability of the company, August 1st of last year saw every CFA in Oklahoma full to bursting with god-fearing, chicken-loving activists out to prove how much they support the belief of CFA’s founder Dave Cathy that marriage equality invites “God’s wrath“. It was very successful.

Back then I actually wrote a bit about it and encouraged everyone to join my procott. See, I don’t think boycotts against beliefs are particularly effective. If they are targeted to raise awareness about and put pressure on government actions that offend morality, they can work, assuming of course you’re patient (it usually takes decades) and you can get tremendous international attention. This is because governments are supposed to bend to the will of the people. But making PEOPLE bend to the will of people is another story entirely. Are your beliefs for sale? Mine aren’t, and I don’t understand how withholding money from someone is supposed to make them change their mind about a belief. No one has ever been able to explain that one to me.

But beyond the efficacy argument, I’ve come to view boycotts as immoral, and boycotts against the individual beliefs of business owners are particularly immoral. The idea is to withhold money from a business owner by boycotting their business as a statement of your disapproval of their beliefs, right? So that means you’ve put your own desire to be free from offense above the business owner’s human right to make a living. You are attempting to deny them the opportunity to support themselves and their families because you simply have a different opinion than they do. This doesn’t seem like an egalitarian or progressive stance. An individual’s right to an opportunity to make a living is higher on my personal morality code than any supposed “right” to be free from exposure to differing opinions. An employer does not have moral justification to fire someone just because they have a different opinion, if that happened to an atheist friend of ours we’d raise holy hell about it. How does it become morally justified to do so as a consumer, who is ultimately a business owner’s boss.

Understand that boycotts like this are only effective against minority opinion holders. As a minority opinion holder in rural Oklahoma who also happens to own a business, I’m keenly aware that an organized boycott against my cafe by the majority religious conservatives in my neighborhood would close us for good. But this is only true because I possess minority viewpoints among my customer base. Business owners who enjoy majority status among their potential customers need not fear a boycott over a difference of opinion. As a matter of fact, as we see with CFA, such a boycott can have the opposite effect of increasing their business and further strengthening the business owner, despite his abhorrent viewpoints. Protecting minority viewpoints is usually considered moral and just cause, especially in a socially progressive community.

Additionally, boycotts of the CFA and Hobby Lobby variety harm way more people than just the business owner. Owners will react to any loss of profit by cutting expenses, and the most obvious expense that can be cut is labor. Hourly workers are the first and hardest hit when a company sees a loss of profit. Some people are laid off, others have their hours and benefits cut. This can go on for months or years before the company owner ever sees any harm from a boycott. They will protect their own cut at the expense of their employees. Assuming your boycott is effective, you will harm many more workers before you ever harm the company owner whose opinions so offended you.  You can not consider actions moral if they harm more innocent people than guilty. Also, take into account that the majority of CFA’s are franchises, i.e. owned by someone other than Dan Cathy. By boycotting them you are effectively saying “We’re going to try to harm you and your employees because you bought some signs from a guy we disagree with.” Someone will have to explain the morality of that to me some day.

So, on this first anniversary of “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” I encourage you all to go out and buy a chicken sandwich. Then donate an equal amount of whatever you spent on that sandwich to your local Pride group, PFLAG, The Human Rights Campaign, the It Get’s Better Project, GLAAD, or any other group fighting the good fight for equal protection for all our citizens. It really is more effective than doing nothing, which is, in the end, what boycotting really is. Doing nothing.

The Few, The Proud, The 53%

I will never understand why we accept such miserable working conditions without complaint. Working more than 40 hours makes you shit for a spouse or parent. How can you possibly have any kind of personal life under those conditions? There is no time to help your kids with their homework, cook a meal for your wife, clean the garage, hell, even have a conversation, with your family. Can you really say you are a good parent when you aren’t home enough to even know who their best friend is? Or you are a good wife when you  haven’t had a conversation that didn’t involve a schedule conflict or an argument about money? Current working conditions is the biggest threat against the “traditional family” existing today, and if you don’t notice that, you just ain’t paying attention.

Working more than 40 hours a week not only hurts your family, it also gives us no time to invest in our communities and country. Where is the time and resources for us to get involved in PTA, City Council, mentoring troubled kids, investigating our elected officials, continuing our education, or just simply being involved in our country or even our own lives? You want to know why our kids run wild in the streets and our elected officials ignore our needs? It’s because we are too busy working 60-80 hours a week at two or three jobs just to survive to even PAY ATTENTION to the festering sore our country has become!

Ask yourselves, who benefits when the vast majority have to tune out to the workings of our government because they are working insane hours for unfair wages just to survive? It’s the powerful elite; the business owners who send our jobs overseas and hide their profits in off-shore accounts; it’s the special interests who are manipulating our government and regulators to increase their profits at the expense of our health, national resources and collective treasure; it’s corrupt elected officials who do big favors for the monied elite and special interests in exchange for “field trips” to luxury beach resorts and big salary job offers when they leave office; it’s the criminal investor class making risky, stupid bets with our pensions and 401k plans at no risk to themselves since they make money no matter how poorly your investments do. They all conspire to keep us week and needy by devaluing our labor, setting prices just beyond our ability to live so we take on more and more work for less and less pay, and then telling us how “American” it is to work yourself to death! ENOUGH!

Just Who Do You Think You Are, Man?

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, one we’ve all seemed to accept as normal. When did it become OK for employers  to control an employee’s morality?  Several instances of this have come up recently. A Houston Chronicle society reporter by the name of Sarah Tressler was fired from her job when it was discovered she did the occasional exotic dance in her off hours. Derek Fenton was fired from his job at the New Jersey Transit Authority last year after he attended a protest (on his own time) where he burned a Koran (which is disgusting and stupid, but legal last I checked). Last month a new law in Arizona went into effect that not only allows employers, under the cover of “religious freedom”, to refuse to cover contraception in their employee health coverage (in violation of Federal law, naturally), but it also seems to give employers the right to fire employees who use birth control to, wait for it, PREVENT CONTRACEPTION!  (I know, it is shocking that people might actually use medication for it’s intended purpose.) Arizona isn’t alone. If recent trends in state legislatures are any indication, there will soon be a plethora of new legislation all around the country that mirrors Arizona’s, giving employers the right to dictate their employees moral choices.

But it’s not just religious and moral positions that employers have used against their employees. There is also the near universal push to piss test employees. Yes, I know, some jobs require sober people. I get it. But piss tests don’t test an employee’s current state of intoxication, the only way to do that is with a blood test. But that’s too expensive, so to make insurance companies happy employers pass around the little plastic cups and use your deposits to peer into your recent history, sorting out chemicals markers that have no relation to the condition the employee is in at the time they are working. No, they only check out what you did a couple of nights ago at that party you went to, on your off-time, where probably no one knew or cared who you worked for and what you did. It’s a lie to say piss testing is about safety, it’s all about snooping on you and your leisure time. It’s about knowing what kind of person is working for you, and determining if they fall in line with your own sense of morality.

I guess this all came to a head with me when it was reported in my super secret Facebook group of atheists that one member was interviewed for a job recently and was asked “Do you go to church?”. Our reporter responded “No” and was immediately asked “Well, WHY don’t you attend church?”. This is a POTENTIAL EMPLOYER nosing around in this person’s private religious decisions, obviously trying to weed out those who don’t ascribe to his personal religious beliefs and it’s code of morality. As an “at will” employment state, Oklahoma’s employers enjoy the luxury to fire (or not hire) anyone for any reason, and as a matter of fact they don’t even have to give you a reason. Without a reason, an aggrieved person can not easily file a complaint with the EEOC, not that they seem to give much of a damn about employment discrimination against non-believers anyway. It’s maddening.

I’m an employer. I have people in my employ at my cafe. Believe me when I say they regularly, and with great gusto, violate my moral code. They brag about them, all those little and big things they do that crawl all over me, but it has never occurred to me I should at any time use those actions against them in their employment. It’s wrong. People have the right to make a living, and to deny someone that right because their actions violate your personal morality is reprehensible. It punishes people who hold a minority viewpoint on morality generally, and religious morality specifically, and you just shouldn’t do that. Are we now expected to revise and amend our beliefs and morality at the whims of the person signing our paycheck? What if they wish to prohibit me from donating to a particular political campaign with the money “they gave me” for working, or ban any alcohol purchases because they violate his beliefs? Shall employers be allowed to choose our spouses, charitable donations or religious beliefs now? Just how far will this trend go before someone steps up and says ENOUGH!?!

I do hope we don’t need another round of legislation and bureaucracy to combat these abhorrent actions. People should just treat one another with respect without the hand of the government forcing them. However, it may come to that, because I don’t see this situation getting better. People have become entrenched, vigorously defending their “religious freedoms”, never once seeming to concern themselves with how their actions violate another’s freedoms. My private life, outside of the workplace, is not my employer’s business. Unless they can show why my attendance at a specific church, moonlighting in my underwear, ingesting drugs (on my own time, natch) or when and how to procreate is in any way essential information for them to evaluate my ability to do my job, they can shove their righteous noses up their own butts. It’s where they belong.