In case you inexplicably forgot to mark your calendar, today is National Papa John's Appreciation Day. The event is meant to show solidarity with CEO John Schnatter, who "has been targeted by the left for a boycott, for simply articulating that ObamaCare would hurt profits and force cutbacks in employee hours," according to the event's Facebook page. Modeled on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, in which conservatives and prominent politicians ate at the fried chicken chain to symbolize their opposition to gay marriage, some 17,000 Facebook users are planning to eat at a Papa John's franchise on Friday to oppose ObamaCare. Participants are also being encouraged to buy two pizzas (one for a person in need) and change their Facebook avatar to the Papa John's logo.
How did this all start? Schnatter stepped into the debate over health care when he claimed that the Affordable Care Act — which mandates that employers with more than 50 workers provide health care to full-time employees (defined as 30 or more hours per week) — would force him to cut back on employee hours. He also claimed that it would force him to raise the price of pizza by 10 to 14 cents a pie. "That's what you do... You pass on costs," he recently told students at Edison State College. "I don't think people know that they're going to pay for this." Schnatter was one of a handful of conservative restaurateurs — including major franchise owners of Hurricane Grills & Wings and Applebee's — warning that giving President Obama another four years would result in price hikes and reduced hours.
Outraged liberals have pledged to boycott Papa John's, and the backlash has only grown, with more than 90,000 people having signed a petition at Signon.org calling on Papa John's not cut worker hours. Schnatter has also been hammered in the press, with business journalists pointing out that he isn't even being honest about the price hikes, which were piddling to begin with. (They would probably amount to 3.4 to 4.6 cents per pie.) Critics say Schnatter and others are punishing workers over their ideological beliefs, and are assuming "that customers wouldn't be willing to pay an extra 4 cents to ensure that the person making their meal has health insurance," says Lauren Kelley at Alternet. "That is pretty sad."
So is Schnatter hurting his own company? Inviting boycotts and bad media are hardly an ideal way to run a business. But that doesn't necessarily mean the bottom line at Papa John's will suffer. Look at Chick-fil-A — it was recently voted America's favorite chicken chain, despite its summer of controversy.
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