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Workplace Political Intimidation

[ 58 ] October 25, 2012 |

Ever since Mike Elk broke the story about the Koch Brothers intimidating Georgia Pacific mill workers in Oregon to vote for Mitt Romney, we’ve seen a tidal wave of corporate overloads trying to influence their workers’ votes. Just in last 24 hours, I’ve seen a number of stories.

Here’s Jack DeWitt, CEO of Request Foods which owns, among other things, Campbell’s soup, sending a letter to his workers urging them to vote for Romney, despite receiving $5.5 million in stimulus money.

Here’s David Siegel, owner of the nation’s largest house, threatening to fire his employees if Obama gets reelected.

Here’s the letter the Cintas Corporation send to its employees urging them to vote for Romney to overturn such evils as Obamacare and the EPA.

Mike White, owner of Rite-Hite, based out of Milwaukee, warned his workers of the “personal consequences” they would face if Obama was reelected.

David Graham has an interesting piece up about the legal ramifications of all of this–which boils down to the fact that there’s not much anyone can do about it unless the employer directly threatens workers with their jobs if Obama is reelected. But it’s clear that there’s a coordinated attempt going on by emboldened employers to badger workers into voting for Republicans–or at the very least to not talk at the workplace about voting for Democrats.

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  • DrDick

    On the up side, this clearly shows that they are getting desperate. On the down side, it might actually work.

    Now where did I put that guillotine ….

    • BKNinCanadia

      I’ve got a spare tumbril you can borrow…

      • rea

        I’m goinmg to knit.

    • Mark K.

      Since I’m a member of the NFTA. I prefer flame throwers.

  • Thomas Jefferson

    Fucking cowards! all of ’em!

    • Another Halocene Human

      We need to keep a list so we can boycott they asses. And spit in their drinks when they ride first class.

  • M Knox

    All I can do is all I can do…just emailed Request letting them know that they will never see another red cent from my wallet.

    I doubt if their spreadsheets will pick up the shortage, but…all I can do

    M Knox

    • Ramon A. Clef

      No, that isn’t all you can do. Volunteer for GOTV efforts. Write a letter to the editor. Offer to drive voters to the polls for your local Democratic Party.

      Stop thinking that your only value to society is as a consumer, and take action.

      • OFA

        Citizens, your real value is as an election day gopher. Those voter rolls are not going to check themselves.

  • Name Withheld

    Our CEO sent out an e-mail to our HQ in Indiana endorsing Mike Pence and encouraging us to attend a rally. The fact that Mike Pence is an utter moron apparently means that our quarterly profits will be up, at the cost of having anybody worth hiring coming out of our public schools in a year or two.

  • dan

    This doesn’t seem like a problem. Vote for whoever you want, tell your boss you voted for whoever they wanted you to vote for. It’s a secret ballot for a reason.

    Might not be a secret ballot for long, admittedly, but for this election, at least, lying seems like a perfectly reasonable solution.

    • Holden Pattern

      Some of the bosses are telling salaried employees they need to contribute to specific parties or candidates. That’s public (unless you’re able to laundry the money through a 501(c)(4).

      • ResumeMan

        That can’t be legal…can it?

        • Philip

          That depends. How much can you pay your lawyer?

        • Warren Terra

          It doesn’t have to be. Merely the knowledge that your corporate master has a certain political stance, coupled with the rumor that your career depends on your hewing to it, can be tremendously effective. Sure: they’d be dumb to tell you the other candidate got the promotion because their car has a Kodos bumper sticker, their lawn a Kodos sign, and public records say they maxed out their personal donation to Kodos. They’d be doubly dumb to put that in writing. But if a memo goes around saying that the company is giving to a pro-Kodos PAC, and the boss is hosting a Kodos fundraiser – well, let’s just say all the executives will get the message, and will want to display their fervent love for Kodos, and won’t want their car or house to display any affection for Kang, let alone to have there be a public record they donated to Kang.

    • Dollared

      And of course, you wouldn’t want to publicly advocate or donate to a Democrat. That’s why they call it intimidation – it inhibits you in multiple ways.

    • Davis X. Machina

      So far as I know, the vast majority of states:

      1. default to employment-at-will
      2. have no public-policy exemption to employment-at-will for voting, and
      3. party registration is public, semi-public (buy voter lists from your secretary of state)

      What, besides bad publicity, in the absence of a negotiated paper contract keeps me from simply firing all my workers who support the wrong party?

      • Davis X. Machina

        There’s no 42 USC 1983 beef — no state actor.

      • Jalrin

        18 USC 594 does not require state action and, assuming there were federal candidates involved, would land you in jail fast.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          prove it

      • Manju

        What…keeps me from simply firing all my workers who support the wrong party

        1. Decreasing the labor pool increases the cost of labor

        2. Companies don’t like to piss of approximately 50% of their customers

        3. Competition

        • Davis X. o

          And in the real world? The one with U6 pushing 17%, and epidemic monopoly and duopoly? In a country where ‘Marketing’ is an academic major pari passu with philosophy?

          That one?

  • Dollared

    Seriously, the only possible response to this stuff is an organized boycott. Is there some legal impediment to organizing a boycott? Speaking as somebody who’s worked for public companies, if you could cut their revenue for a given (profitable) product by 5%, they would be under serious pressure.

    So why isn’t this happening.

  • parrot
  • HP

    A few years back, the company I work for was bought out by a Major German Multinational (there’s only like three of them, so you can probably guess — it’s not Bertelsman or Daimler). The only US politics we’ve heard from Corporate in Munich is about meetings with the few Congresspeople who might support single-payer. (I gather the Germans are really sick of having to manage health insurance for their US-based employees.) Needless to say, I’ve gotten no pressure from the top regarding my vote, and the US-based executives are holding their tongues.]

    Long story short, if you’re employed by a US-based company, do your damnedest to look attractive to European or Indian corporations. Tata is the future. I’ve never been more pleased with corporate executives since the Germans took over.

    • NonyNony

      I gather the Germans are really sick of having to manage health insurance for their US-based employees.

      Yes. The biggest complaint I’ve heard from European companies that own American interests is that the cost of maintaining the HR departments they need to track all of the US legal bullshit when it comes to benefits competes heavily with the tax bills they pay in Europe for the government to just take care of it for them.

      Somehow in the USA our plutocrats have not glommed onto the fact that paying taxes to the government to take care of something for you can actually be cheaper than outsourcing it or doing it yourself. We have a special breed of stupid plutocrats in this country I guess. (WOO! AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM!!! WOOO!)

      • Cody

        Well, some of those plutocrats are those companies that costs tons of money to insure your employees.

        And their jobs (or at least profits) are gone if single-payer comes.

        • This is a big one. The FIRE sector of the economy (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) has grown hugely in the past three decades and is politically very protected. Insurers are not at all keen on losing market share, and have set up a system where they can overcharge outrageously. It’s plutocrat vs plutocrat on this one.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        It’s been obvious for a LONG time (1920’s? 40’s?) that universal coverage healthcare would be a big win for the corporate bottom line. Not least, because of competition with the rest of the 1st world, that does have such coverage.

        It’s not just the poor, dumb, talibangelical Kansans that are voting against their own interests.

        • malraux

          The difference is that the bottom line for the company and the bottom line for the people who run the company are two separate things. Increased profits for the company are counterbalanced by higher personal taxes.

        • Warren Terra

          There is the feudal aspect: a worker getting their benefits from the state, and guaranteed to get them, is less beholden to their employer. The current situation may be a hassle for the employer, but it also increases their power over the employee.

  • Manju

    This post is ridiculous. By this standard, I was threatening republicans all day long.

    2 years ago I told employees at one of our biotech ventures that if the Teabaggers win their jobs were on the line. I was right. Those fuckers held up NIH funding.

    Are workers so stupid that they don’t know about the secret ballet?

    • bradP

      I don’t know anything about the secret ballet, but I think the worry is that the employers will be “convincing”, but “threatening” sounds better.

      • mark f

        the secret ballet

        2014 Foreign Languange Oscar Winner.

    • Warren Terra

      It’s not all about what happens in the voting booth. This will encourage campaigning of all sorts (talking, displaying campaign swag, donating) to favor one side, and discourage it to favor the other. It will convince workers to vote to preserve their jobs, even when the outcome of the race has no such effect on their jobs. You are completely wrong to denigrate the importance of this move.

    • Are workers so stupid that they don’t know about the secret ballet?

      Stealth Lake,by Tchaikowsky?

      • mark f

        Ah, fuck.

      • Manju

        Wait! I meant shallot. They’re delicious.

        And secret. How else to explain the workers eating onions instead?

    • Karate Bearfighter

      By this standard, I was threatening republicans all day long.

      Yes, exactly: context is completely irrelevant, and all utterances at any time should be judged by the exact same standards. You can threaten to fuck someone up on Xbox Live; why should that become a crime just because you’re saying it to them in a dark alley with a brick in your hand?

      • Karate Bearfighter

        By the way, depending on your relationship to those employees and on what you said to them, what you did might have been illegal in Wisconsin.

        Wis. Stat. 12.07 prohibits employers from distributing printed material to employees that threatens that work will cease or be reduced, or that wages will be reduced if a particular electoral outcome happens.

        • Manju

          Well, I didn’t print anything…but on the more substantive issue, if the state tried to apply the law here I would challenge its constitutionality.

  • Lancelot Link

    In California that stuff is illegal.

  • The Dark Avenger

    No, but apparently the employers in question are, Majnu. Perhaps DW-Nominate will help you blame that fact on the moldering corpse of Sen. Robert Byrd.

    As J.S. Mill noted, it’s not that most conservatives are stupid, but that most stupid people are conservative.

  • snarkout

    I don’t know who Request Foods is, but I’m pretty sure Campbell’s soup is still owned by Campbell Soup Company, which is publicly traded.

    • greylocks

      Request Foods does process and package some items under the Campbell’s brand, but a quick google failed to turn up any evidence that RF holds a major stake in Campbell’s, which as you say, has been publicly traded for forever.

      RF has done wingnutty things before.

  • BobS

    It’s not uncommon for working people to hate their bosses, particularly when they’re the kind of bosses that try to run every part of their lives. I think these attempts to influence voting will result in a significant number of ‘fuck you’ votes in the anonymity of the voting booth.

    • JKTHs

      Depends on how threatening they perceive the threat to be. Of course it’s total bullshit since Obama isn’t doing anything to raise corporate taxes in the aggregate and otherwise and no regulations are going to put companies out of business but it’s obviously a question of what they perceive

    • mpowell

      Yeah, I think there is at least a chance this would backfire. The ballots are secret after all. I think the mid level managers might be fooled, but line level employees? Seems unlikely.

  • Cody

    If my CEO is in favor of what I am, I look deeply into my decision. He doesn’t live in the same world as me.

    • greylocks

      Most workers pay as much attention to these memos as they do to all the other memos that get sent down from upstairs – i.e., none.

      Nevertheless, companies that engage in voter intimidation should be outed.

  • Major Kong

    They must not think very highly of their candidate if they have to resort to this sort of thing to get him elected.

    • greylocks

      Actually, they don’t think very highly of their workers’ ability to make their own decisions. And I suspect they run their companies the same way. Authoritarian assholes are consistently authoritarian.

  • JKTHs

    Maybe workers should send memos upstairs. “If Romney wins, let the workers’ revolution commence!”

  • Alex

    Hasn’t it always been proper for the lords of the manor to instruct their serfs on matters of patriotism?

  • Different states, different statutes. Here’s the relevant one in Wisconsin, and it does pack something of a punch:

    Statute 12.07 (3)
    No employer or agent of an employer may distribute to any employee printed matter containing any threat, notice or information that if a particular ticket of a political party or organization or candidate is elected or any referendum question is adopted or rejected, work in the employer’s place or establishment will cease, in whole or in part, or the place or establishment will be closed, or the salaries or wages of the employees will be reduced, or other threats intended to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees.

    Reportedly the complaint about the Rite-Hite letter has been assigned to a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney. We shall see…

  • Anonymous

    “Request Foods…owns…Campbell’s soup.”

    That’s wrong, as you can verify by checking the linked article. Request Foods sells to other businesses, not to consumers. They have (or at least had) a contract with Campbells provide pot pie filling and macaroni and cheese to Campbells, so I would not buy those products from Campbells.

    • Davis X. o

      ‘Owns’ may only be a slight exaggeration. McDonalds’s doesn’t own McCain’s.

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