Plutocrats In The News

The Pizza Scrooge

Pizza Scrooge Papa John made news following President Obama’s reelection and just ahead of Christmas by threatening to cut work hours for his employees because the ACA (“Obamacare”) will supposedly make health care less affordable. Well, it won’t, and Papa John is playing a cynical game, laying out a lame justification to continue an old practice: keeping employees’ hours under 40 per week to avoid having to pay them benefits. Rick Ungar who has spoken out against this scrooge-like behavior  writes in Forbes that this avarice harms not just his employees, but all of us:

The cost of Papa John’s professed fealty to its shareholders at the expense of its employees? These workers, who typically earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford health insurance for their families on what Papa John’s pays them, will find themselves facing a fourth down and long without a play to call when a member of that family faces a serious illness.

But it’s not just these employees who are being left to run a passing route with no ball ever coming their way. Other fans of the NFL—people like you and I who pay our already expensive monthly premiums for our family’s health insurance needs—will be left to pick up the tab for Papa John’s employees when they show up in the emergency room because they have no other option for their care. That means that Papa John’s will make more money at my expense, despite the fact that I have never set foot in a Papa John’s restaurant nor ordered up one of their pizzas. This means that I will personally be subsidizing Papa John’s profits without ever once becoming a customer—as will a great many of you—because this pizza company is willing to shirk its responsibilities in favor of letting you and me pay the bill.

Why He’s Full of Pepperoni

As the Romney/Ryan campaign so painfully illustrated, ideologues don’t do math well. But what if the ideologue is a CEO and majority shareholder? Well, in that case, if their math is off, there’s got to be another explanation. Papa Scrooge has falsely claimed that compliance with the ACA would add 14 cents to the price of a pizza. However, a Forbes article by Caleb Melby breaks down the real costs to Papa John’s:

  • The real cost of the Affordable Care Act to Mr. Schnatter’s business runs much closer to 4 cents a pizza than the 14 cents he claims.

This raises the question of whether Mr. Schnatter might be using Obamacare as an excuse to raise prices.

“Where Are You Now, Peyton Manning? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You”

Rick Ungar has called on quarterback Peyton Manning to take a stand:

On the day the alliance between the National Football League and Papa John’s was announced, it was also disclosed that Denver quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer, Peyton Manning, had become the owner of 21 Papa John’s locations in the Denver  area. Manning additionally serves as a spokesperson for the pizza chain—featured in a television commercial wherein he encourages CEO John Schnatter to give away two million free pizzas. Note that the cost of the give-away promotion far exceeds the burden of providing the affected employees with health care benefits.

… I would like Peyton Manning to do something for all the hard working Americans that have been there to support him and the NFL, thereby allowing Peyton to earn a great and well-deserved living. I would like Mr. Manning to return the favor by announcing that his Papa John’s franchise operations will not be cutting back on its employee hours and that his restaurants will gladly comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. I want Peyton to tell us that he will personally see to it that the people who work for him at his 21 stores will each receive their health care benefits.

A Pizza Business Can Be Responsible

Ungar points to a small Wisconsin business with four locations —Ian’s Pizza— as an example of a business that has been providing full health care coverage to its 50 full-time employees for years.

Nick Martin, one of Ian’s owners of  Pizza, understands that a business can provide a living wage and benefits while still making a return on investment. An additional benefit is that it can help level the playing field for small businesses. Martin told The Huffington Post:

This may level the playing field for us. If they have to pay for benefits, and that pushes their prices up closer to ours, it will justify what we’ve been paying for and what we’ve been fighting to do the past few years.

We all know that national chains like Papa John’s serve the needs of their shareholders  at the expense of their employees, and make it difficult for small, local companies to compete. A resurgence of local companies, which “tend to have a greater connection with their communities and take the well-being of their neighbors much more seriously than these national operations who could not, apparently, care less” would be a welcome economic development. It would help to revitalize our communities and to reverse the hollowing out of the middle class that corporate-leaning economic policies since the 1970s has effected.

A Timely Reminder

Rick Ungar encourages us to support our locally owned restaurants. Papa John has lost me as a customer. Rick Ungar puts it this way:

I hope you will support your locally owned, non-franchised restaurants. These are your neighbors who—while working hard to give you a good product in their effort to earn a living—tend to be far more committed to their communities and the opportunity for everyone in that community to have a better life. And if there is a franchise operation in your area that has seen the light and is doing right by its employees, drop by there for a meal—from time to time—just to let them know you appreciate their effort to do the right thing for your friends and neighbors.

And the next time you call in to a national chain for a pizza delivery, ask the person on the other end of the phone if they are being provided health care by their employer as a part of their compensation. If they aren’t, politely hang up and call a locally owned and operated pizza joint. You’ll feel better for it. Not only will you likely get a far superior pie, you’ll know you have supported a business that cares about supporting your community.

Thanks for that reminder of one more thing that we can all do to help reverse the hollowing out of the middle class.