The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 26, 2012

CEOs using job threats to sway employees’ votes

By The Building Tradesman



In a recent conference call with Mitt Romney and the anti-union National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Romney urged the employers to tell their employees who to vote for. In These Times featured a video of Romney’s call in the article, “In Conference Call, Romney Urged Businesses to Tell Their Employees How to Vote.”

Here’s what Romney said:

“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. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.”

This story is not unique. Recent news headlines are pointing to a disturbing trend in which employers are encouraging their employees who to vote for. On Oct. 13, In These Times broke a story that detailed the Koch brothers mailing 45,000 of their Georgia-Pacific employees a voter packet, which explained that their livelihoods were at stake in this election and the company endorsed Mitt Romney.

Last week, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan posted an email from David Siegel, the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, to his employees, warning them he would have no choice but to layoff workers if President Obama was re-elected.

Nolan wrote: “There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose….It’s quite simple. 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. Rather than grow this company, I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

These employer-messages (like the Koch mailer and the Siegel email) include both direct and implicit threats and scare tactics to make employees fear for their jobs if President Obama wins. These are the same kinds of tactics that employers use against workers trying to organize a union. In National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that even what appears on its face to be mere persuasion becomes inherently coercive when it’s an employer urging its employees to make particular personal decisions.

Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of Romney’s “request”:

“Apparently, Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in workplace democracy. And as more and more reports of employer coercion of workers’ political rights emerge, it is clear that Romney’s disdain for workplace rights is not unique. In fact, the employer communications to workers that we are seeing include both direct and implicit threats and scare tactics to make employees fear for their jobs if President Obama wins. These are the same tactics that employers use against workers trying to organize a union. The Supreme Court has long recognized that even what appears on its face to be mere persuasion becomes inherently coercive when it’s an employer urging its employees to take particular actions.”