This story starts, as many do, with a tweet. A customer was at the Salty Sow and noticed a troubling item on the drink menu: the “Obama Care Margarita.”
— David J. Neff (@daveiam) November 21, 2014
One tweet led to another, and soon, Eater Austin reported, Austinites were vowing to boycott the establishment and all of their tasty drinks.
— JJ (@jenztweets) November 21, 2014
— Charles Potato Pie (@charlesv) November 21, 2014
The original tweet garnered over thirty responses, at least one of which expressed frustration with all of the fuss over a joke:
Are people truly mad at the salty sow for a bad joke about Obamacare? So much for anyone in Austin having a sense of humor.
— James Cameron (@jcsie) November 21, 2014
But clearly, the Salty Sow wasn’t going to take any chances with the previously mentioned humorless clientelle. They issued an apology (and took to Twitter, to cover all of their bases) after removing the drink from their menu. The Salty Sow said:
On last night’s menu, we made a tongue-in-cheek reference to a hot button topic. We apologized to those who were offended and have removed it from the menu.
But really y’all, why all the fuss? It isn’t like billion dollar businesses have been using the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare as an excuse to reduce their employees’ hours, while they continue to rake in ridiculous profit margins, right?
Wrong. Last year, the CEO of Whole Foods called Obamacare fascist and went on to say that the law – and not the tendency of companies to value profit over paying their employees fairly – would cause companies to reduce their employees’ hours in order to avoid spending money providing healthcare.
John Schnatter, the real Papa John of Papa John’s, caused controversy in 2012 when he said that the additional costs through Obamacare – which, to be clear, are the costs of providing quality health insurance to employees– would cause the cost of pizzas to rise and would lead some franchises to cut hours to ensure that their employees wouldn’t make the cut to qualify for benefits. It was especially galling in light of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney commenting on the quality of Schnatter’s multi-billion dollar home. When pressed about this juxtaposition, Schnatter replied:
When you have built a $3 billion company out of a broom closet, I think you are entitled to a nice house.
In other words – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and then you’ll get healthcare. Until then – suck it up.
By September of 2013, over 300 companies had reportedly claimed that they would be cutting hours or laying off workers to avoid the increased costs associated with Obamacare.
To their credit, it is highly likely that the folks at the Salty Sow were trying to poke fun at these employers and their callous valuation of profit margins over the well being of their employees, but it also isn’t surprising that customers simply didn’t find the humor in the Obama Care Margarita.
Perhaps that’s because, in a town like Austin, there are a lot of people working in the food service industry. More often than not, they are paid minuscule hourly wages on the assumption that their customers will tip and can do math, and their access to benefits through full time scheduling lies completely in the hands of managers who are carefully watching the bottom line.
Texas is one of the states with the highest concentration of food service industry employees in the country. Twenty-six out of every thousand people in Austin metropolitan statistical area work in food service or preparation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the average annual income of those workers is $19,260.
In light of the willingness of employers across the country to throw their workers under the bus to save their profit margins and make a political statement, and considering just how many people in Texas and Austin rely on this insecure sector to make ends meet, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that restaurant-goers were disappointed in the joke. Maybe that’s because blaming workers’ access to healthcare for a higher price on the consumer’s end just isn’t funny.