Politics and employment

Employer activism directed at their employees about voting is inappropriate

People usually say that you should not discuss religion or politics at work. These are very personal aspects that have no business at the workplace.

However, this year, some employers are not thinking twice about advising their employees which candidate to vote for. Otherwise, they say, the policies of this candidate’s opponent can cost employees their job.

That is what David Siegel, the millionaire CEO of Westgate Resort, did. He warned his 7,000 employees via e-mail that if “any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans… This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

The Koch brothers did the same with the 45,000 employees of Georgia Pacific in Oregon, advising them to vote for Republican candidates so they do not “suffer the consequences” of Democratic policies.

This employer political activism is attributed to Citizens United, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives free rein to the political participation of corporations.

At the same time, this same attitude has been encouraged by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He has told groups of business owners to talk to their employees about what “is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

While it is true that a union can get involved in politics and support a presidential candidate, this happens outside work. Inside the workplace, this is limited to specific labor issues. But the union does not have the power an employer has over job positions.

The activism Romney has proposed and companies are engaging in is not illegal, but it is inappropriate because of the power of employer pressure.

What is established this way is not a political discussion, but rather the promotion of a single point of view in order to convert voters. Quite openly, this sends employees the message that their job security depends on their vote in favor of the candidate the company’s owner supports.

This rule of the game is really underhanded intimidation, which has little to do with the free exercise of the vote. People usually say that you should not discuss religion or politics at work. These are very personal aspects that have no business at the workplace.

However, this year, some employers are not thinking twice about advising their employees which candidate to vote for. Otherwise, they say, the policies of this candidate’s opponent can cost employees their job.

That is what David Siegel, the millionaire CEO of Westgate Resort, did. He warned his 7,000 employees via e-mail that if “any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans… This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

The Koch brothers did the same with the 45,000 employees of Georgia Pacific in Oregon, advising them to vote for Republican candidates so they do not “suffer the consequences” of Democratic policies.

This employer political activism is attributed to Citizens United, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives free rein to the political participation of corporations.

At the same time, this same attitude has been encouraged by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He has told groups of business owners to talk to their employees about what “is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

While it is true that a union can get involved in politics and support a presidential candidate, this happens outside work. Inside the workplace, this is limited to specific labor issues. But the union does not have the power an employer has over job positions.

The activism Romney has proposed and companies are engaging in is not illegal, but it is inappropriate because of the power of employer pressure.

What is established this way is not a political discussion, but rather the promotion of a single point of view in order to convert voters. Quite openly, this sends employees the message that their job security depends on their vote in favor of the candidate the company’s owner supports.

This rule of the game is really underhanded intimidation, which has little to do with the free exercise of the vote.