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Untoward, at Best

At worst, it is pretty reprehensible.

Via The Ticket:  Koch Industries, other CEOs warn employees of layoffs if Obama is reelected

a letter, dated Oct. 1, from Koch Industries president Dave Robertson implicitly warning that “many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences” of voting for President Obama and other Democrats in the 2012 elections, a list of conservative candidates the company’s political action committee endorses and a pair of editorials: one, by David Koch, supporting Mitt Romney, and the other, by Charles Koch, condemning Obama.

If the Kochs, or anyone else for that matter, want to use the money they have made in business on the creation of PACs, think tanks, or whatever, that is all well and good.  However, it strikes me as wholly inappropriate to try and influence one’s workforce to vote a certain way in the election (especially via scare-tactics over employment in tough economic times).  It is not the place of an employer to try and directly influence a basic political right in this fashion.

If the Kochs want to campaign, that’s fine, but this is electioneering in the workplace, which is a different activity altogether.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. I would say this should also apply to “electioneering” by Unions to their members.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 42

  2. Pylon says:

    Because there is a live and present example of each, correct?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Because your Union can fire you?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 5

  4. John Burgess says:

    And if the threat is a true threat?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. Fiona says:

    False equivalence, this is the second example of a conservative employer holding the possibility of job cuts over their employees’ heads if they don’t vote Republican. To me, it borders on extortion. Not that I’d expect anything better from bottom-feeders like the Koch brothers.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 5

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Shhhhhh, in this arena what’s good for the goose most definitely is not good for the gander. Especially in media and academic circles. Besides getting labor unions to stop electioneering in the workplace would be like trying to get all the corruption out of Chicago. No chance in hell. Better to go tilt at windmills.

    Not to be technical and literal, but technically and literally the Koch letter didn’t warn of layoffs. That’s simply the liberal media doing its thing. The “consequences” to which the letter made reference were as follows: “higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.” Layoffs were not mentioned nor even implied.

    But that’s really besides the key point.

    This is bad management.

    Management should keep politics out of the workplace. There’s nothing to gain and plenty to lose. It creates divisions and schisms and negatively affects productivity. Granted, if you’re unionized your unions won’t even meet you half way, much less take the high road, but the whole point is that management needs in any event to take the high road. For similar reasons conceptually as to why asylum administrators never should sink to the levels of their charges.

    The Koches here are making a big mistake. Win or lose they’re going to have employees who feel singled out and co-workers who feel either superior to or inferior to each other. Not a recipe for maximized success.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 20

  7. @Alex Knapp:

    It can intimidate you. I remember the stories my father told.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 20

  8. Brettzky says:

    Why can’t/shouldn’t a business or other private concern express the impact of ANY public policy or election on their business?

    Two weeks ago, a candidate expressed the need to defund something that is an improper tax expenditure, and the known Leftist world concluded that early childhood education would be taken back to the Dark Ages. It might have been ludicrous and hyperbolic, but CTW is well within their rights to express the view.

    If it wasn’t the Koch Brothers, would this even pique interest? No.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 18

  9. James Joyner says:

    I’m definitely not a fan of this.

    On the one hand, we have a secret ballot. So, it’s not as if Koch will know one way or the other how his workers vote. On the other, it’s unseemly to threaten job cuts as a consequence of the outcome of a democratic election.

    It’s also rather bizarre in the case of a sitting president vying for re-election after nearly 4 years in office. If a President Obama will force the cutting of jobs, wouldn’t that have already happened? Shouldn’t they be instead sending out letters promising that, if Romney is elected, the Brothers Koch will finally have the veil of uncertainty and weight of oppression lifted and be able to hire lots more workers?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  10. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner:

    Shouldn’t they be instead sending out letters promising that, if Romney is elected, the Brothers Koch will finally have the veil of uncertainty and weight of oppression lifted and be able to hire lots more workers?

    The trouble with this approach is that it recognizes that the brothers have been doing just fine under Obama – not the narrative they are after.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  11. Rick Almeida says:

    @John Burgess:

    And if the threat is a true threat?

    It’s an empirical question, and seems very difficult to support with empirical evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    “Elections have consequences.”

    We’ve already heard of one restaurant chain that’s going to cut workers’ hours to under 30 in response to ObamaCare. Others will likely follow suit.

    These companies aren’t evading the law, they’re complying with it. To the letter.

    Expect a lot more of these. However, they’ll be called “unexpected.”

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 17

  13. Vast Variety says:

    Welcome to the world of Citzens United.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  14. Herb says:

    Not that surprising. If they’re willing to spend millions of dollars to influence an election, it’s not too much of a leap to also attempt to accomplish that goal in non-monetary ways. Indeed, it’s probably cheaper.

    Is this what happens when you make money the most important form of free speech? You can spend the money, but you can’t actually speak?

    I dunno….I’d almost prefer it was the other way around –the money was restricted and Koch can say what he wants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Geek, Esq. says:

    @James Joyner:

    Shouldn’t they be instead sending out letters promising that, if Romney is elected, the Brothers Koch will finally have the veil of uncertainty and weight of oppression lifted and be able to hire lots more workers?

    Hard to do that and then cut wages/salaries. It’s not as if corporate America is going to turn into Santa Claus because a Republican wins. Just like an investment banker isn’t going to take his tax cut and invest it in a steel plant instead of a vacation home in the Caribbean.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  16. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It can intimidate you. I remember the stories my father told.

    My father told me some stories too- about fairy princesses and what not . I don’t formulate policy based on stories Daddy told.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 5

  17. Scott says:

    @James Joyner: Yes, we have a secret ballot; however, doesn’t this intimidate employees who want to put bumper stickers on their cars or lawn signs out? Are the Kochs going to patrol their parking lots for any kind of sedition? With the weakening of employment laws through “right to work” laws, there is a pretty good dose of corporate oppression possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  18. swearyanthony says:

    @Doug Mataconis: oooh, were they union thugs with Chicago style politics? Do tell. The gods of both-sides-do-it demand you tell!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  19. swearyanthony says:

    @stonetools: in the stories Doug’s father told him, red riding hood and the wolf, well, who can tell, fault lies with both sides. And Snow White – well, who knows what really happened?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  20. stonetools says:

    @Scott:

    Essentially, this letter says, “Don’t campaign for or publicly support Obama, or you could lose your job. And if you vote or plan to vote for him, and I hear about it, you could also lose your job.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  21. John Peabody says:

    I don’t see the sturm und drang. As was noted, we have secret ballots. I’d have no problem nodding my head toward my boss and voting any damn way I please once I get in the booth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  22. Scott O says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    These companies are also “complying” with the minimum wage law, to the letter. Guess Romney will have to repeal that too.

    “And last year, the company also put workers on a “tip sharing” program, meaning waiters and waitresses share their tips with other employees such as busboys and bartenders. That allows Darden to pay more workers a far lower “tip credit wage” of $2.13, rather than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. “

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Jen says:

    @John Peabody: The “sturm und drang” occurs when employees feel as though they cannot volunteer or do campaign work (or post so much as a link to a blog post on a Facebook page) reflecting their personal views on their own time, for fear of retribution at work.

    This is really appalling behavior. There is no excuse for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  24. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I would say this should also apply to “electioneering” by Unions to their members.

    Yes, because unions, just like employers, can fire their members who don’t follow their will…actually, wait, not they can’t. It’s not the same thing at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    On the one hand, we have a secret ballot.

    We have a secret ballot, true. But we don’t have secret party registration, or secret records of donations to political parties and candidates. Those are all public, and it’s fairly easy to guess that someone who registered as a Democrat and donated money to Obama’s re-election campaign is also voting for Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @John Peabody:

    I don’t see the sturm und drang. As was noted, we have secret ballots. I’d have no problem nodding my head toward my boss and voting any damn way I please once I get in the booth.

    But what if, before you head into the booth, you want to put up a lawn sign, put campaign stickers on your car, donate money to your candidate and attend public rallies? You don’t think you might be intimidated into not doing any of this because your boss threatened to fire you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  27. C. Clavin says:

    It’s this kind of bullying and work-place intimidation…and there really is no other discription…that led to unions in the first place.
    This is eliteism in it’s purist form…that the brothers Koch know more and know better than you plebes…it is completely in line with the notion that democracy ends at the plant gate, or in this case, the reception desk.
    Do you want to know why Republicans are anti-union…this is why.
    The values that built this nation are increasingly dispised by Republicans.
    Why do they hate America so?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  28. BobM says:

    Yet the Democrat-backed WARN act, by law, requires government contractors to notify workers of impending workforce reductions. Doesn’t seem like any real difference between that and this situation. Double standards, anyone?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  29. David M says:

    @BobM:
    The WARN act requires notice of actual layoffs, this is the equivalent of saying they are going to be laid off due to a martian invasion, but dressing it up in political language.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Behold, our Corporate Overlords….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. BobM says:

    @David M: Actually, the WARN act requires notice of EXPECTED layoffs. (They don’t become “actual” until they occur.) The letter that went out to Koch employees does the same thing. Business is expected to slow in the event of Obama’s reelection, and the resulting slowdown means layoffs are anticipated. That’s how things work in the real world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  32. David M says:

    @BobM:

    Business is expected to slow in the event of the impending martian invasion, and the resulting slowdown means layoffs are anticipated. That’s how things work in the fantasyland.

    Fixed it for you. I don’t think you understood how loony a notice like this actually is.

    They are in no way anticipating layoffs, and if they are, it means they are politically clueless right wing cranks. It’s similar to the NRA warning people the UN is going to take their guns, only gullible fools actually fall for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  33. grumpy realist says:

    It seems to me that this might backfire spectacularly with some anti-discrimination suits. An open supporter of Obama could use these letters as basis of “creating a hostile atmosphere.” And if the individual got fired at any point? Whoopsie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. Davebo says:

    It seems to me that this might backfire spectacularly with some anti-discrimination suits.

    Or worse, a class action suit where lawyers vie to represent every employee laid off or fired.

    For rich guys they are really not the sharpest bowling balls on the rack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. bill says:

    meh, unions do this all the time and nobody knows who you vote for anyway- you all scared obama’s losing his edge or something? maybe if he campaigned on something other than “romney bad” he wouldn’t be losing ground now!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  36. I find it curious that so many seem not to understand that unions do not hire and fire people but that employers do. This makes employers rather powerful.

    Nor do many seem to understand the degree to which employers ought not be using their considerable power to attempt to influence the political behavior of their employees.

    Nor, for that matter, to understand that unions are entities created to represent the interests of workers, while employers represent the interests, by definition, of themselves.

    One can argue about how well unions represent workers, as I am sure some will note, but one cannot avoid the fact that we are talking about very different things vis-a-vis the interests of the employee when we compare the owners/managers of businesses and unions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. And BTW, which talk radio host/columnist brought up the WARN Act recently? All of a sudden GOP-leaning commentators want to talk about the WARN Act. It is too obscure to be something that has emerged organically, so I am guessing some right-leaning commentator trotted it out recently.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. @David M:

    They are in no way anticipating layoffs, and if they are, it means they are politically clueless right wing cranks. It’s similar to the NRA warning people the UN is going to take their guns, only gullible fools actually fall for it.

    Indeed.

    In fact, the likelihood is that the general economic conditions (i.e., a weak recovery) are going to change all that much going into next year (regardless of who wins) is small.

    Even if there is an assumption that there is going to be a significant change in economic policy (which is unlikely because of the likely configuration of the Congress), it will take some time for those changes to influence hiring (or firing) conditions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0