What About Chic-fil-A Workers’ Freedom?

I’m on the record as saying I think it’s a straightforward infringement on freedom of speech for a city to try to ban Chic-fil-A because of its CEO’s disgusting right wing politics.

But one good reason you should stop eating at Chic-fil-A (other than their dead-ender CEO, and diarrhea) is the oppressive organizational culture Josh Eidelson describes in this must-read piece at Salon:

Wealth gives Chick-fil-A’s owners an outsize impact on our politics: As we’ve been reminded this week, the company channels millions of dollars into anti-gay organizations. But its impact on national policy is nothing compared to its influence over the lives of its employees. Comments from the company’s founder suggest that Chick-fil-A embraces its legal right to reward and punish employees’ private behavior. And a series of lawsuits allege that managers have wielded their authority over workers in ways that break the law: firing a Muslim for refusing to pray to Jesus; firing a manager so that she’d become a stay-at-home mom; and punishing workers for objecting to sexual harassment.

It’s now common knowledge that Chick-fil-A wears its brand of Christian conservatism on its sleeve. In a 2007 article, Forbes’ Emily Schmall described how that ethos infused the company’s employment policies. It meant extensive vetting of franchise operators, including interviewing their children and asking about their involvement in “community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations.”  “If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy told Schmall.

But operators weren’t the only ones being judged on their private lives: Schmall wrote that Cathy “says he would probably fire an employee or terminate an operator who ‘has been sinful or done something harmful to their family members.’”

Good comments from Corey Robin here.


  1. Jon,

    1. I have no idea why you are proud to be on record as calling another adult a “douchebag.” What are you, 12 years old? You’re better than that.
    2. Its also silly to call the owner of a chicken restaurant your “enemy.”
    3. Save us the “conscience of a liberal” nonsense. You, like most, mischaracterize this absurd series of events as a “free speech” issue. Of course that is a component of this.

    The real issue is an abuse of authority issue. Mayors presumably execute the laws of their own cities. Restaurant licensing laws are generally designed to meet some health or zoning intent. Discrimination laws keep the labor market within the norms established in our Constitution. In my time living in Boston, I don’t recall the Mayor being charged to ensure downtown businesses were of uniformly “acceptable” political opinions. What these incidents demonstrate is that Mayor’s seem to have come to believe (again, if they ever stopped) that its their city, and we just live in it.

    Is that the way you “as a liberal” want city government to work? Would it be ok if the Federal government worked that way? Or just when you agreed with it? I find myself shaking my head that any educated person, like Corey Robin, could actually state that Chick-Fil-A has had the greater impact because they are prudes who run a fast food business, when you have large urban governments flouting the very idea of civic liberty.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Sometimes douchebag is the only descriptor for a guy like that.

      “Defending My Enemy” is a book by Aryeh Neier, the former director of the ACLU, about how he defended Nazi’s right to march through Skokie, IL, an area with a large population of Holocaust survivors. It’s a freedom of speech reference.

      I agree about Boston and Chicago’s abuse of authority, and say so in the post I linked to at Keystone Politics. This is a post about how Chic-fil-A abets abuse of authority within their franchise network. Not sure it’s useful to argue about what’s worse. I do think this is bad, and it’s another good reason for non-homophobes not to give them any business.

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