The Morning After at Hobby Lobby

Religious decorations share the aisles with "Bling Office Decor" at Hobby Lobby

Religious decorations share the aisles with “Bling Office Decor” at Hobby Lobby

By Julia Carrie Wong

July 2, 2014 — Monday was a horrible day for women and workers in the United States, with the Supreme Court affirming its contempt for both groups in two decisions that continue the not-so-gradual erosion of their basic rights.

48hillsjuliawongIn Harris v. Quinn, the Court concocted a new class of worker called “partial public employees” to describe home health aides, a designation that Sheila Bapat points out “further entrenches the notion that domestic work is not ‘real’ work.” In the Hobby Lobby case, five male justices held that a closely-held, for-profit corporation can practice its religious freedom by denying its workers health insurance that covers contraception.

We don’t know yet what all the implications of the Hobby Lobby case will be (here’s one helpful analysis of some of the many ways the ruling is deeply troubling), but the immediate result is that Hobby Lobby, a chain of 572 craft stores with about 13,000 employees, will not be required to provide its workers, nearly 70% of whom are women, with health insurance that covers certain forms of contraception. So yesterday morning, after waking up with the kind of hangover I associate with feelings of revulsion and rage, I decided to see if I could speak with some Hobby Lobby workers about the decision.

The closest Hobby Lobby to San Francisco is about 35 miles east of the city in Dublin, a suburban town in Alameda County that sits at the intersection of I-580 and I-680. The brand new store opened this April in a 60,000 square foot building next door to a Target. According to this report, the store has 35-50 employees.

Hobby Lobby sells every conceivable type of crafting supplies. There are aisles of yarn, fabric, silk flowers, scrapbook materials, picture frames, home decorations, and more. One of Hobby Lobby’s four commitments to customers and employees reads, “Providing a return on the owner’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.”

The store’s layout showed a similar ability to mix commerce and piety, with commerce taking the first position. A few tables of religious decorations (ceramics decorated with scripture such as a brown plate reading, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord, Joshua 24:15”) were located directly across from a display of “Bling Office Supplies.”

I arrived soon after opening, and most of the 15 or so workers were busy checking inventory. It’s tricky to talk with workers on the clock, and I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, so I didn’t stay for long. One woman worker initially asked me to speak to her (male) manager, but when I said that I wouldn’t identify her, she opened up a bit more. “I believe health care is a personal choice,” she said, “but I work here, so I support Hobby Lobby.” She had been at Hobby Lobby since the store opened, and she appeared proud of it. She plans to remain on her husband’s health insurance plan.

Several women workers I approached were quick to say, “No comment,” or to ask me to find the manager. I spoke to one young male employee who said that the case was a topic of conversation in the employee break room, but that no one really expressed an opinion. He was not using Hobby Lobby insurance, because he is still covered by his parents.

The strongest rebuke to Hobby Lobby came from a part-time worker who was hard of hearing. She ran to her locker to grab a scrap of paper for me to write down my question, and became quite animated when she understood. “Just because Hobby Lobby is at the forefront with their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean it reflects my beliefs,” she said. “Not at all.”

Hobby Lobby claims that the ruling means that “individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.” Instead, they lose their religious freedom when they go to work for one.

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29 Responses to The Morning After at Hobby Lobby

  1. Eileen says:

    I am still in shock that in 2014 ,5 men decide what is best for women’s reproductive choices?
    Are masses being held at Hobby Lobby this weekend? I am SO CONFUSED….hope to god it does not start a flood of lawsuits? what next? blood transfusions? vaccinations?

    • Sam says:

      Eileen, men didn’t decide anything Justices decide what they are asked to decide, and those justices are appointed by those we elect.

      If you do not like out democratically-chosen justices then blame yourself, because you have clearly failed to convince the voters otherwise.

      Even ObamaCare specifically excludes part-time workers. And you voted for Obama, right?

      • Karl Young says:

        Sam, you sure seem to like making a lot of assumptions about people.

      • Paula DeMichele says:

        Um, I don’t think the Supreme Court justices were chosen in a democratic manner. You seem to imply the general populace had a say in this. No way did I want Clarence Thomas as a SCJ. You also don’t seem to grasp the completely schizophrenic decision which was clearly tied to the Citizens United Ruling. The Hobby Lobby ruling was probably the most asinine decision the court has made in 75 years.

        • Sam says:

          The Justices are chosen by those whom we elect. That’s about as democratic as it gets unless you want to elect them directly, and the whole idea of them is that they cannot be removed once in office.

          You might not like Thomas and I don’t much like Sotomayer but overall the court has balance and that is how it should be. In both cases they were token appointments and that hints at how the process could be improved.

          I’ve made it clear why the Citizens United ruling was correct but of course you are entitled to disagree.

        • Gloria says:

          I was astounded that Clarence Thomas was named to the court after the Anita Hill sexual harassment case. There were three other women who also had complaints against Thomas for the same kinds of things.

          According to Hill, Joe Biden never called the three women to testify who were subpoenaed to discuss alleged inappropriate behavior by Thomas. In addition, Hill said there were experts available who could have “given information and helped the public understand sexual harassment.”

          The things Hill alleged that Thomas did were beyond the pale. It has bothered me ever since Thomas was nominated that he could ever be thought by anyone to truly be capable of conducting a fair and impartial decision when a woman’s interests are involved.

          The ultimate findings were that the charges were supposedly politically motivated. But why were the three other subpoenaed women never called to testify? Something has always seemed suspect to me.

          • Gloria says:

            I just found information that there were FOUR other women besides Hill who had been subpoenaed, but on the them was eliminated as a potential witness because Thomas had fired her.

          • Gloria says:

            Excuse me; “one of them was fired” was intended to be typed into my follow-up comment.

          • Gloria says:

            (It would be nice if comments could be deleted or edited after posting.)

            Trying again: Excuse me; “one of them was eliminated” was intended to be typed into my follow-up comment.

          • Gloria says:

            Some other things I just found made the information I posted above clearer to me than what I just reported above.

            The ultimate findings were that dredging up the old sexual harassment charges against Thomas, (during the hearings), was supposedly politically motivated. But there had been deals cut by members of the political parties to agree to ignore the rest of the women’s allegations against him.

            The upshot is that I also am not happy with Thomas’s appointment, It seemed and still seems wrong.

          • Gloria says:

            One other comment about “the Supremes”:
            Justice Alito rolled his eyes while GInsberg read her dissent. Doing that shows a complete lack of respect for the other person speaking. I wonder if Alito would dare do that if a male justice dissented from his view? Somehow, I doubt it.

          • Gloria says:

            BTW: Ginsberg has been on the Supreme Court bench 17 years longer than Alito. Alito’s showing such a lack of respect and contempt for Ginsberg’s opinion — even just his showing such rudeness toward his senior member of the court — was beyond belief to me.

        • Gloria says:

          Paula, I was CEO of a closely-held corporation for years until I retired. The whole point of forming a corporation is to separate the shareholders from the corporate entity so that liability is limited to the corporation and its shareholders are protected,

          I also believe the Citizens United decision was wrong. A corporation is an artificially-constructed “person” that has no existence apart from law. A search for the words “piercing the corporate veil” shows how important it is that the shareholders and the corporation remain legally separated. This is a basic thing taught in first-year law school.

          Corporations are able to have finances and wield influence that extends far beyond the great majority of individuals. Those who say they want freedom from government rules in favor of giving rights to the individual have–with the Citizens United decision–handed over immense power to profit-driven corporations, who will not usually have the best interests of REAL individuals outside the corporations at heart. The Citizens United decision makes no sense to me.

          • Sam says:

            Corporations are entitled to seek to influence the democratic process, as are unions, non-profits, partnerships and even foreign interests.

            As long as those efforts are documented and regulated, people can decide how much weight to give them.

            But while entities like unions and advocacy groups can put feet on the ground, corporations typically cannot. Allowing them to fund political causes ensures that they have a seat at the table as well as the rest of us.

            Corporations provide jobs and investment opportunities to hundreds of millions of Americans. And products and services for all of us. They are not the enemy. They are us and they need a voice.

          • Gloria says:

            You are as entitled to your opinion Sam, as I am. I have difficulty with corporations receiving massive amounts of corporate welfare–and the situation is abused by them–as well as with other things about many of them and especially with how the larger ones deal. But your opinion is your opinion. We have different life experiences; I’ve both worked for and managed large and small corporations, And I will not be changing my view.

          • Sam says:

            Corporations do not get welfare. Welfare is a handout we give to people who do not work. Corporations create wealth – they do not consume wealth.

            I was not seeking to change your view. I was explaining why the citizens united decision was a sound ruling for the benefit of anyone who does have an open mind about these things.

          • Gloria says:

            As I said, Sam, we will disagree, but please don’t try to school me in business. I have no interest in reading the same tired mantras parroted by many that don’t address the whole truth and from people who don’t understand what has been happening,

            As just one example of corporate welfare; the farm bill passed in March 2013 bill raised the price support payouts to supposed farmers, such giant agribusinesses like Monsanto and Sunkist. Commodity prices have been at record highs. So why were the farm price supports raised again? Well, it’s BECAUSE prices have been at all-time highs, so the corporations were whining because the price support checks had naturally fallen, So the payouts were raised even higher to these giant companies because getting record prices for their agricultural products at market just was not enough. This also serves to lock in higher food prices for the consumer.

            Even corporations like Fruit of the Loom and McDonalds and Walmart benefit from the farm bills, as taxpayer money goes to advertise the businesses under the Market Access program. Also, the bill spends billions advancing junk food additives such as high fructose corn syrup while healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, receive relatively little subsidies.

            As for the previous farm bill of March 26, 2013, House of Representatives passed a last-minute amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (HR933).The provision protects genetically modified seeds (GMOs) from litigation over health risks. This was dubbed “the Monsanto Protections Act”.by some since the biotech rider stripped the federal court’s authority to stop GMO seed crops from being grown — even if there were consumer health concerns.

            THe only real improvement I saw in the 2014 farm bill was the elimination of a subsidy known as direct payments. These payments, about $5 billion a year, were paid to farmers whether or not they grew crops, The issue had become politically toxic over the last several years since farm income have been at record levels.

            And this is just one business–mega farming

            So whatever, Sam. You see it your way. I see it mine.

          • Gloria says:

            EXcuse me: slip up above sentences should read in part: “price support payouts to supposed farmers, such giant agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland and Sunkist. “

          • Gloria says:

            (Repositioning and rewording post :)

            If it’s not obvious, Sam, Citizens United gives mega-businesses even more leverage than they had. They can now more easily buy legislators that favor their interests over those of average taxpayers and consumers.

            (And yes, I see that I typed out and posted the previous correction to one sentence in the prior post too quickly )

          • Gloria says:

            By the way, Sam, the government spend 50% more on corporate welfare each year than it does on welfare to individuals. Do a search for the words “corporate welfare” and read.

            Cutting taxes to businesses does not create jobs, Demand for goods and services creates jobs. Consumers need to have enough income to afford goods and services so that jobs can be created.

            The point of business is to make a profit for the SHAREHOLDERS. So CEOs tell shareholders that they are maximizing returns to them while they are cutting jobs and/or outsourcing them to other countries.

            Chambers of Commerce and corporations like to say that corporations create jobs. But it’s the people who can afford to buy the goods and services they need and want that are the real job creators.

          • Gloria says:

            Sam, speaking again of “corporate welfare”, this is an interesting thing I ran across this morning.

            Search for the words :”‘Duck Dynasty’ welfare accusations: Taxpayers pay $6.2M ”

            (From the “Hispanic Business” website:)

            “In Louisiana, the government gives tax credits that cover both production costs and actors salaries for films and television shows made here, NOLA.com wrote. Louisiana waivers 30 percent of the money producers spend while shooting a film or television production in the Bayou state. Thirty-five percent of local actors or on-air talent’s salaries are also compensated.

            “Though the benefits are technically given through a tax credit, film and television companies receive them regardless of whether they pay any taxes in Louisiana, NOLA.com pointed out. THIS MEANS THAT THE TAX CREDITS EASILY TURN INTO A DIRECT CASH BENEFIT FOR MOST OUT-OF-STATE PRODUCTION COMPANIES. (emphasis mine)

            “However, Duck Dynasty’s stars — the well-known Robertson family — live and run a family business in Louisiana, which means they are more likely to pay taxes in the state than other actors and producers who come to work in the state from elsewhere. “Duck Dynasty” has also generated something of a cottage tourism industry in West Monroe, where the show takes place, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne told NOLA.com

            “All told, “Duck Dynasty” will be subsidized by Louisiana to the tune of $38,433 per episode in season one, $107,328 in season two and $328,521 in season three, according to the Louisiana Budget Project.”

    • Gloria says:

      Also, Eileen,

      Regarding Blood transfusions again: I wonder myself if the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga lawsuits could be as much about resisting The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare as they are about adhering to tenets of one’s faith.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses are of a mind to let the world’s governments do what they want, except when the governments try to FORCE them to do something that is against their faith. (That is in line with scriptures in the Greek portion of the Bible.) If the insurance plans available to a Witness business-owner offers blood transfusions and abortion-causing medicines and procedures, no WItness is FORCED to use them. Non-Witness employees have the right to do what they want.

      Witnesses are strongly against such things as warfare too, but I’ve never seen any Witness filing suit because so much of their taxes go to paying for wars. So I hope that helps you feel better as far as that one religion goes.

  2. Gloria says:

    To Eileen,

    Don’t worry about the possibility of Jehovah’s Witnesses choosing to forbid their employees from receiving blood transfusions. That will not happen.

    Although other people besides Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that blood transfusions are allowable under the scriptures, Jehovah’s Witnesses know very well that imposing one’s religious views upon those who are not part of one’s own faith is a serious sin. The Christian portion of the scriptures only allows the congregations to judge or correct those within the congregations; those outside of the Christian congregation are left to God. The scriptures even clearly state that.

    For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that abortion is wrong–that it is murder. But you will never see a Jehovah’s WItness at anti-abortion rally nor will you ever see any Witness pushing for laws to outlaw abortions. Witnesses teach people by showing them the scriptures relating to abortion and then letting people make up their own minds as to whether that is what they want to believe or not.

    God himself does not force anyone to adhere to one particular set of teachings. (Look at all the varieties of religions, for example.) Why should anyone think they should have more power over others than God takes for himself in religious matters?

  3. mikeksf says:

    Did you talk to the manager? Ask for him? Why not?

  4. Starz says:

    Julia must not have read the decision. To say “In the Hobby Lobby case, five male justices held that a closely-held, for-profit corporation can practice its religious freedom by denying its workers health insurance that covers contraception” ignores the fact that the majority decided that there was exercise of religion involved and that Health & Human Services did not apply the least restrictive burden upon such exercise, as required by law. Justice Alito noted that H&HS exempts non-profit corporations exhibiting a religious purpose to the conduct of their business and the Congress could have allowed it with Obamacare but did not. Faced with a parallel that could not be ignored, did the Court make the right decision? Julia needs to read the decision and find out.

  5. Bob S. says:

    First. Hobby Lobby did not deny ” its workers health insurance that covers contraception.” Please be truthful. HHS dictated that there were 20 contraception products that HAD to covered under health insurance plans. Hobby Lobby objected to 4. The other 16 are covered under the Hobby Lobby Health Insurance Plan. Second. Any female employee can still have access to those 4 products by paying for them. Third. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which SCOTUS cited, was passed in 1993 by a unanimous House and near unanimous Senate (both Democratically controlled) and signed into law by a Democratic president (Clinton). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_Act If you believe all women should have free contraception regardless of the product, just say it. But don’t overstate your case as you have done in your blog.

  6. Gloria says:

    THe interesting thing about this case is that I am certain Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga’s health insurance premiums will not be cut a whit from this decision. All their moneys go into a large pool. The money Hobby Lobby and Conestoga pay their insurer will go to buy the same contraceptives that they do not want to pay for. Their premium money will pay for someone else’s employees’ or some private policyholders’ use of the very medicines Hobby Lobby does not want to pay for. That is how insurance works. There are no separate funds for each business. It’s all a huge pool. The distinctions are meaningless. I don’t know how these businesses cannot know that by this time.

  7. Gloria says:

    If it’s not obvious, Citizens United gives mega-businesses even more leverage to buy votes that favor their interests at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.

    (And yes, I see that I typed out and posted the correction to one sentence above too quickly )

  8. All the crafty goodies at Hobby Lobby were made in China, where abortion is part of government policy andis forced upon women. So much for religious belief that abortion is a sin–they are not important where the bottom line is concerned. They do business with a godless state who forces abortion on women,but that’s not a problem for them. Hypocrites.

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