Should Employers Be Allowed to Influence Their Employees’ Vote?

Recently, I came across a news report stating that corporate officers of the Georgia Pacific mill — owned by the politically active Koch Brothers, as well as being the largest paper recycling mill in the state and second largest employer in the county — have sent out mail packets to all employees advising them to vote for Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney in the upcoming election. Similarly, many news sites are reporting that Romney himself, in a recent conference call to the NFIB, told employers to be, “… 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.”
On the other hand, some people point out that this has been a frequent tactic by union representatives over the years. For example, in the 2008 presidential elections, union efforts resulted in a 59% Democratic vote, whereas the general population only voted 51% Democratic. This strategy has caused its share of controversy in all public sectors, especially the education system, where some teachers feel strong-armed into joining unions if they wish to keep their jobs.
Regardless of your opinions of the two presidential candidates, what do you think about political campaigning in the workplace? Does it violate laws or is it protected by them? Well, let’s write about it!

12 thoughts on “Should Employers Be Allowed to Influence Their Employees’ Vote?

  1. aside from free speech being thrown in the gutter, who’s to stop those with money from advertising to their “captive” audiences. isn’t it illegal to have discriminating work practices based on political persuasion?

    • Actually, I discovered (but forgot to add) that a 2010 Supreme Court ruling threw out many of the laws preventing practices such as these — not that they were doing their job anyway. As for your question of, “who’s to stop those with money…” as the Koch situation shows… nobody apparently! Union and corporate corruption has become a major issue in this country, and I think this is a topic that is really under-spoken right now.

      • This definitely is one of those debates in which a person’s stance depends entirely on the relationship of their own political affiliation with that of the company (or union) distributing voter “information.” In any case, I think the letter that Koch Industries included with their information packets is very helpful:

        Personally, I believe all information is helpful and one must take responsibility to understand the bias that might be present in the information given. I have found in my own life that only by being open minded and listening to both sides – within the context of known biases of each side – can I gain enough information to actually make a rational decision. In this case, Koch Industries is known to have a Libertarian/free market bent. They have expressed in their letter to their employees that they are concerned about the impact of the elections on the market, which in turn influences their ability to provide jobs and compensate appropriately for work done. Employees of this company should be grateful for the information, not upset for having received it – whether or not they see ulterior motives or suspect logic. All of it has the capacity to expand our understanding of one another as fellow Americans.

    • On the other hand… many states in the US treat political preferences almost like sex or race when it comes to job protection. So, yes, it would actually be unlawful to threaten someone’s job in those states according to who — or what — they vote for.

      • you didn’t say “threaten with loss of job” you said, is it right for employers to try to convince employees to vote a certain way.
        it certainly is not. employers have insight as to what is going to keep their company operating and making a profit thereby CREATING JOBS. no one knows what goes on behind closed “curtains” (voting booth). as an employer, i would certainly try to convince my employees to see things my way and i could easily do that without threatening them with job loss.

  2. Fulon: My position is that in a free country you should study the candidates and weigh what and how their position agrees with your way of thinking. Study all the facts and what they have as a record or in the case of propositions what they will mean to you, and how they will affect your life, property or family, and not be influenced, Threatened or persuaded against your better judgement. It’s your responsibility to study the facts and not be influenced by ads and lies. It is a big responsibility and privilege to be able to vote, and no one should be able to threaten that you have to vote a certain way. This doesn’t mean that a candidate doesn’t have the right to present their position and the fact that opposing candidates goals and program may effect their lives in a negative way.

  3. This has been a problem for years and year, and unions, which have been worse about it than businesses, have used employee dues to support political candidates (usually Democrats), and employees have had no say in how these funds were used. The truth is exactly what Vel says above: voting is a solemn privilege that carries with it the responsibility for each voter to study the candidates, their characters, their previous decisions, and their current stances, then to make an individual choice for the candidate who is the best. Laws don’t seem to make much difference in this area. They’re ignored or full of loopholes or contradictory. Which is probably why the Supreme Court threw so many out. So be one of those on whom special interest groups have no effect. Take on personal responsibility and thoughtfully and intelligently pick the person for whom you vote.

  4. The position I hold where I work requires that I be a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Each election I receive a flyer from the IBEW stating who they support. Sometimes it influences my decision and other times it does not. It doesn’t sway me any more than reading about who the NRA supports. As far as the employer persuading employees is concerned, I suppose that would fall under harassment. There are two basic types of harassment. hostile work environment and quid pro quo. If an employer tells you they will punish you in some way if you don’t vote for their candidate, or will reward you for voting they way they want, it’s called “quid pro quo.” Basically, “this for that.” If they keep pestering you about who to vote for and it’s making you uncomfortable to the point that its affecting your work or personal life, it’s considered a hostile work environment. In either case, one could file charges against the employer for harassment. If they are merely campaigning for their choice and not offending anyone, then I feel they are within their right to do so. But what do I know? I’m just a dumb old lineman. Lol

  5. Oh. And about the union spending my dues to support a candidate, I have no say in that. I do however have a choice as to who I vote for when it comes to electing the officers of our union. As a union, if we don’t like how the officers are running things, it’s up to us to elect new officers. It’s actually just like our government. We get to vote for the lesser evil.

    • Very true! Thank you very much for the great perspective on this issue, this is why I love doing this!
      By the way, I learned recently that none of the teachers in my school (a charter school) are in a teachers’ union. They have listed both benefits and downsides to this, but I’d like to get the opinion of someone in a wholly separate field. If you had a choice, would you still be in a union, or would you stick it out solo?

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