Last week, we noted a growing trend of CEOs trying to swing the election by telling their employees how to vote—often with implicit threats about job losses if their favored candidate didn’t win. And this isn’t just isolated incidents. It’s coming straight from the top, with Mitt Romney himself asking business owners to tell their employees to vote for him.
If you needed more evidence for how widespread this is, check this out. The National Federation of Independent Business, a major lobby group and major donor to Republican campaigns, is holding a training with its members on how to “prepare your employees for the crucial upcoming election.”
Even when the threat of lost jobs isn’t made, there’s something inherently coercive about bosses telling their employees how to vote. Although voting is private, this kind of explicit request from above—from the person who signs your paycheck—can make workers afraid to express their own beliefs, inside or outside of the workplace.
This is in part a consequence of the Citizens United decision that gives wealthy people much more leeway in the political process. It’s completely legal, even as it’s not particularly appropriate.
Here are a few new examples we’ve just seen today:
- • Jack DeWitt, CEO of Request Foods, endorsed Romney and attacked President Obama in his company’s employee newsletter. He sent this message even though his thriving company benefited from a major grant under the Recovery Act in 2009.
- • Mike White, the CEO of Rite-Hite, sent an email to all of his employees warning of “personal consequences” and dangers to their health care and retirement if President Obama is re-elected.
- • Cintas CEO Scott Farmer sent his employees a memo stocked with misleading talking points along with an “Issues Guide” suggesting how they vote.
As we’ve said before, these are the same kinds of tactics corporations have been using to scare their employees away from organizing a union. It looks like political democracy is just as annoying to these CEOs as workplace democracy is.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated. Your vote is your right—plan to get to the polls in the next 12 days!