This year's campaign season has been awash in cash from corporations working furiously to buy the electoral outcomes they desire. But corporate influence has not only been rampant on the airwaves in favor of preferred candidates. A broad spectrum of workers has also been subject to intimidation and coercion from their bosses.
As Roll Call's Eliza Newlin Carney wrote in her column today, corporations have been freed to launch full-on campaigns within the confines of their businesses -- sometimes forcing the hands of their powerless employees:
Some employers appear to have jumped right in. Recent news reports have detailed emails to employees from CEOs at companies including Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific, Westgate Resorts, Lacks Enterprises and ASG Software Solutions warning that a vote against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would, essentially, lead to layoffs.
Just today, new reports of employee intimidation in Milwaukee have surfaced. The head of a major manufacturing firm sent an email to his employees this week alleging that their pensions could be in danger if President Obama were reelected, a tactic clearly designed to scare workers into voting for the candidate chosen by their CEO.
According to the piece from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Mike White, the chairman and owner of Rite-Hite, a major Milwaukee manufacturer of industrial equipment, told employees in an email this week that all employees "should understand the personal consequences to them of having our tax rates increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama's future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government."…
As a result [of supposedly higher corporate taxes under an Obama administration], White said the company's profits would not be reinvested. Instead, he wrote, "the money will be sent into the abyss that is Washington, D.C. So, on top of the burden of having your personal taxes increase dramatically, which they will, your RSP contributions and healthy retirement are also at risk, all for the sake of maintaining an over-sized government that borrows 42% of every dollar it spends."
No employee should be subject to this kind of brazen power play. Nor, as Carney pointed out, is Mr. White the only perpetrator. Just a couple of weeks ago, David Siegel, CEO of timeshare company Westgate Resorts, sent an email to his staff of several thousand, saying, "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company…This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone."
This is corporate meddling in elections at its worst. But protections against such treatment also have a rich history. As Carney noted in her column, workplace safeguards against political coercion have been in place for centuries, even before the United States became a country. "As early as the 1700s, laws in several colonies and states barred any 'attempt to overawe, affright, or force, any person qualified to vote, against his inclination or conscience,'" she wrote.
The freedom to think and act without fear or coercion is fundamental to the success of our democracy. But there's one candidate running for president who is all in favor of such employee intimidation: Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Governor Romney has actively encouraged this brand of bullying (from Roll Call):
Romney appeared to encourage such talk when he addressed business owners on a conference call with the National Federation of Independent Business. “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections,” he said.
So, would Romney stand behind the tactics a number of CEOs have used to scare their employees into voting for him? According to his goading statements, he'd like such intimidation to be the norm.