Koch Industries Tells Its 50,000 Workers How to Vote

The immediate concern in the wake of the Citizens United decision was that corporate funding would play such a dominant role in election campaigns as to trounce all other interest groups (as if that hadn’t already occurred in large measure).

But a story in The Nation, “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” by Mark Ames and Mike Elk points to a second channel of influence: major employers pressuring their staff to vote for the company’s pet candidates. Never mind that most workers live in an employment at will regime, so the business has no loyalty to the troops, or that business and wage slave interests are seldom aligned. As the Nation piece depicts, employees of Koch entities like Georgia Pacific are repeatedly told who they should vote for. This is new: before Citizens United, companies could only proselytize its officers and shareholders.

Consider what passes the smell test now:

The election packet starts with a letter from Robertson dated October 4, 2010. It read: “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee” [emphasis added].

For most Koch employees, the “helpful items” included a list of Koch-approved candidates, which was presented on a separate page labeled “Elect to Prosper.” A brief introduction to the list reads: “The following candidates in your state are supported by Koch companies and KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch companies. We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom.”…

After guiding employees on how they should vote, the mailer devoted the rest of the material to the sort of indoctrination one would expect from an old John Birch Society pamphlet (the Koch Brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS). It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists….

With Citizens United, it seems, the country is heading back to the days of court-enforced corporatocracy. Already, workers at a Koch subsidiary in Portland, Oregon, are complaining about being subjected to political and ideological propaganda. Employees at Georgia-Pacific warehouses in Portland say the company encourages them to read Charles Koch’s The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company and to attend ideological seminars in which Koch management preaches their bosses’ “market-based management” philosophy.

Travis McKinney, an employee at a Portland Georgia-Pacific distribution center, says, “They drill into your head things like ‘The 10 Guiding Principles of Koch Industries.’ They even stamp the ten principles on your time card.”

The article provided a sample of one of the mailings, so you can see for yourself how prominent the voting recommendations are.

Koch Industries isn’t alone in these efforts. Dave Dayen reported that employees of a McDonald’s franchise in Ohio were given instructions to vote Republican in a local election, along with their paycheck. And if you think that suggestion was already none-too-subtle, the insert said:

If the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected, we will not.

This sort of thing does violate Ohio election law, and other states are apparently taking steps to limit election propagandizing by employers. But they have yet to be tested in court.

In the meantime, welcome to the ever more intrusive thought police.

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63 comments

    1. punch your koch

      No, none at all. In one instance, the person who is paying you your wage is telling you how to vote. In another, an organization to which you pay dues to belong, is telling you how to vote.

      In one of those organizations you have a say in who they ordain as good enough to vote for. In the other, you have no say, and as the note says, you may get less pay or less benefits.

      One organization is democratic, they vote in leadership to represent the people within the organization.

      One organization is a top down fiefdom.

      1. WIS numbers

        Unions are a local monopoly. In most cases you are required to join them even if you don’t agree with them. The dues you pay are not voluntary donations. So even though you may not agree with them they are using your money for political purposes.

        Given the above, I fail to understand your “logic” as to how that is somehow OK.

        1. ambrit

          My oh my. Talk about a false analogy! The aims of the competing organizations also comes into play here. One is interested in advancing the interests of a narrow group; shareholders and management. The other is interested in a much more diverse interest group; workers and the public at large. A key idea from evolutionary biology controls here: Diversity is directly related to survival. The greater the diversity, the better the chances of long term survival.

          1. Bartoncreek

            Funny, the Democrats are now saying unions are all about diversity and it is the key to survival in evolutionary biology?

            So would that not translate into diversifying our country back to the original Republic it was with many diverse regions instead of one huge giant centrally planned mass produced sh!t hole were the masses are placated by stealing money from others legally?

          2. mike

            Oops! Nobody claimed to be a Democrat here! And by working to improve “the public good” (because I’m not exactly a silver tongued kind of guy) any organization improves it’s survival odds in a democracy. The more friends you have, the more votes you can influence.

            As to the rest. …. What??… Bring back the days of the plantation in the South? Poor farmers in the West? Exactly what type of Founding fathers argument are you making here?

        2. punch your koch

          Do you get a vote on who runs Koch Industries?

          Can a Union fire you for not voting the way they tell you to?

          1. WIS numbers

            “Do you get a vote on who runs Koch Industries?”

            No, because they are a private company. However, I have worked for fortune 500 companies, and can vote through my stock ownership….. as can anyone who invests in the company.

            “Can a Union fire you for not voting the way they tell you to?”

            No they can’t. Neither can Koch industries. Can you name anyone from Koch industries that was fired because of how they voted in an election?

          2. punch your koch

            Let’s try this another way, you clever little paid hack.

            You successfully hijacked a thread about corporate power over the ballot box with anti-union rhetoric.

            Who has more power/money over the politicians in this country right now, unions, or corporations?

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            You can only vote on issues that get on the slate, and your vote can be diliuted at any time. I suggest you read the rather vast literature on this topic. Institutional investors have not meaningful influence on corporations, and to think individual shareholders do is daft. So to buy a share to have influence is a really silly argument.

            Plus Koch Industries IS A PRIVATE COMPANY! Hello!

          4. WIS numbers

            Yves,

            “Plus Koch Industries IS A PRIVATE COMPANY! Hello!”

            Yes, see the first sentence of my reply where I state that.

            Ok, I will admit that I was a bit subtle with my reply. Let me spell it out…

            Yes, companies do all they can to ensure very few stockholder proposals will ever succeed. I have been part of an effort to get a stockholder proposal on the annual stockholder ballot (we were successful in getting it on, but not successful in passing it.)

            Punch seems to think that just because they vote for leadership that unions are a bottoms up organization (will of the people). He seems to ignore the fact that union leadership does all that they can to stack the deck and ensure they preserve their leadership rolls…. just like like companies do.

          5. mike

            You’re showing your stripes there WIS. You first argue that you can vote on shareholder proposals. Then say very few succeed. (I can’t think of any.)

            Point one to corporate power. Your votes don’t count.

            Then you say there’s a rough equivalency between the Executive Suite and Union Leadership stacking the deck to “maintain power”.

            Not even close. Unions elect their representatives periodically. The members get to judge the representatives job performance and vote accordingly. (and I’ve never heard of a union rep pulling in millions of banana bucks in a year)

            Point two to the people. Your votes do count.

            America’s Unions. Bringing Democracy to the Workplace.

          6. bob

            “No, because they are a private company. However, I have worked for fortune 500 companies, and can vote through my stock ownership….. as can anyone who invests in the company.”

            Private company with NO PUBLIC STOCKHOLDERS. You do not have the option to invest. You must be “invited” to invest.

            There is a difference.

        3. Middle Seaman

          Unions are not a monopoly. In many cases, workers can choose whether to join the local union. Whether a worker joins or not, the union still represents her/him. Union leadership is, typically, dedicated, hardworking and low paid. If you choose to portray these individuals as on par with the Koch brothers, you probably believe that the earth is flat.

          In the countries with the highest standard of living and best working conditions, e.g. Germany, Sweden, union membership is way higher than in the US. Hatred of unions is a result of constant malicious propaganda against unions and workers by rightwing organizations that intend on paying all of us the minimum pay of 1966. Welcome to 7 days work week, no health care benefits, no sick days, no vacation; welcome back to slavery no matter what ethnicity you belong to.

          1. WIS numbers

            Both my wife and my son work for the government and are required to join the union. This is not optional for either of them. Paying dues to the union is not optional for either of them.

          2. mike

            Wis Numbers… They like their negotiated pay and negotiated benefits. right? by the way….. how did they like being called parasites by “gubbenner” Scott Walker?

          3. harry

            To ‘WIS numbers’

            I ususally judge who has power by how they live. Generally, through history. The powerful have chosen to eat nice food, live in nice homes, and avoid heavy manual work. I understand these choices and I would chose the same.

            You may well be right, in stating that union leaders represent an elite that is illegitimately removing wealth from both other workers and shareholders. But they just dont seem to live as well as the owners of large corporations.

            If I had to chose who had power out of the two groups, I would guess that workers had very little power judging by the decay in their pay and conditions, and that managers of large companies (not the shareholders – who have generally done very badly in the last 10 years – were in control.

            Of course I could be wrong, but thats my logic.

            Whats yours

          4. Moopheus

            Where I work joining the union is optional, but paying for it is not. So most eligible workers join anyway, so they can at least have the voting rights. I do see a difference between the company and the union, because the company obviously has more power over your job than the union does. This makes the union a lot easier to ignore. Suggesting that raises and promotions depend on election results comes awfully close to paying for votes. The voting booth is private, but people do talk politics in the office. It wouldn’t be that hard for a manager to find out which way someone went. Of course, if it could be demonstrated they used that information against someone professionally, they’d likely be opening themselves up to a lawsuit. But it doesn’t surprise me a bit that businesses would use as much leverage as they can legally get away with.

        4. Alice X

          WIS numbers says:
          April 21, 2011 at 2:06 am

          “Unions are a local monopoly.”

          Unions exist represent their members in collective bargaining with an employer. Those represented certify or de-certify their union for the purposes of representation. It should be self explanatory that one representative is all that is required, or desirable.

          “In most cases you are required to join them even if you don’t agree with them.”

          Unions may stipulate in the collective bargaining agreement with the employer that within 30 days hiring the new employee will join the union. An employee may choose not to join, but will be required to pay a commensurate amount for the cost of negotiating the contract. If they joined the union this would be called work dues. Not joining is called ‘Beck’s rights’. Why anyone would try to save a few dollars difference by not joining thereby relinquishing any democratic input into the union is beyond me.

          The Taft Hartley act of 1947 permitted states to disallow this right to union/employer agreement on membership. This was called the right to work. It means the right to work without representation. The employee doesn’t join the union or pay any dues and the union is very weak. The so called right to work states have lower wages.

          ‘The dues you pay are not voluntary donations.’

          The dues you pay are determined through internal democratic process which are described in the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 as amended.

          ‘So even though you may not agree with them they are using your money for political purposes.’

          All use of union funds are determined through democratic processes. That is the law as of 1959.

          You need to study these matters before you recite non factual right wing rhetoric.

          Unions, as with all human organizations, are imperfect things which must be developed and maintained with vigilance.

          The alternative is going one on one with employers who are holding all of the cards.

          ‘Given the above, I fail to understand your “logic” as to how that is somehow OK.’

          I have answered this.

        5. CrankyFranky

          What about the incredible growth of “closed shop” unions — but without the union?

          Employers increasingly require employees to join a Contingent Staffing Group for a job. Essentially a monopsony, same as a union “closed shop”, without the benefit of collective bargaining rights. And if my managers do check public record political contributions and don’t like what they see they can end my “at will” contract at a comfortable arm’s length. After all they aren’t even my employer of record.

          As an independent contractor to Fortune 1000 companies, I have been forced to acquiesce my independent 1099 status and join these ubiquitous “Contingent Staffing Services” such as Synergy Services, Comforce (American Stock Exchange:”CFS”) and ManpowerGroup (NYSE: MAN).

          In my case I’ve made the initial contact, interview and negotiated hourly wage rate. Then I’m mandated to join the “W-2 Employer of Record Payrolling Service”. As a graphic artists I’ll probably be working on an “Elect to Prosper”(TM) house organ soon.

    2. KFritz

      For one thing, there’s no CEO addressing me as ‘dear co-worker!’

      The Koch’s do score points for humor…of a sort.

    3. Tg

      So, let me get this straight: a company tells its employees that if it elects the wrong party that it may have to cut salaries, benefits or positions.

      What’s wrong with that? In my industry and amongst my peers it was common discussion among the business owners that if the tax law extensions didn’t pass late last year that many of us were going to postpone indefinitely our hiring plans. It’s pretty simple: if we pay more in taxes and we’re on the fence about hiring – we don’t.

      I sure as hell wouldn’t ask my staff who they voted for nor penalize them if they did, but facts is facts and if my costs go up in one center (healthcare or taxes) and my revenue is stagnant, then cuts to other things must occur.

      I get the implication of course, I just think everyone here is blowing it waaaay out of proportion.

  1. psychohistorian

    I suppose one could take the attitude that the Koch heads are doing a public service by indicating who NOT to vote for.

  2. FatCat

    Yes, I tell my stupid peasants how to vote. And they better do as I command them, lest they want me to fire them all and ship my plants to China… which I plan to do anyway, as soon as the Chinese consumer market is mature enough, in a year or two.

    FatCat

  3. Zaphod

    Wow, sounds like something straight out of 1984:

    “It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists”

    1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

      Indeed. The world they are creating is indeed a 1984-like one. But that sentence seems to stem more form Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, then from 1984.

      1. Matt Hoffman

        Even better, they seem to get their dystopian bent from Rand’s novella Anthem. I must admit, I read the short piece in my pre-political days when I was about 16 and really enjoyed it. It’s funny to watch Rand give interviews though – difficult to imagine anything beautiful coming from that deranged woman.

        The creepy thing here is, the Koch brothers seem to offer their workers that authoritative narrative voice from above that Rand disdains in anthem … the very voices the Street Sweeper she paints as protagonist frees himself from.

  4. Conscience of a Conservative

    Churches and Unions and just about any organization under the sun attempt to sway, encourage and deliver votes in a particular way that undoubtedly suit their purpose.

      1. Marta

        Umm, apparently not. During Bush II’s second run for election the churches went all out for him and provided voting guides that their members were supposed to adhere to in the voting booth. Nobody lost their tax exempt status. The catholic church was one of the worst offenders.

        1. bob

          Show me one mailing, like the one linked, that points to WHO TO VOTE FOR.

          The catholic church has for years been skirting the issue by putting “abortion” as issue number one, then telling the church how the candidates stand.

          Subtle difference, but they cannot do an mailing like the Koch’s did.

  5. tz

    The voting booth is still private. My Condo association is spending big bucks to tell me vote yes on a local millage (maybe time for a bylaw change), but this happens all the time.

    What about the abysmally boring safety or “what is sexual harassment” videos that they also have to sit through and watch. If Koch thinks it is better to have their employees NOT work but sit and listen to something instead, it is their money.

    And unions? First the Beck decision says you can have refunded any portion of dues used for political purposes, however the “low paid” union workers can’t seem to calculate it very easily and you run the risk of smashed glass and slashed tires or worse. Meanwhile they will tell you to vote for the democrats who sent the jobs to mexico or china. They are uniformly ultra liberal, and it is still tyranny to be forced to support causes you detest as a condition of employment. I don’t know quite when, but they have stopped even a pretense of representing labor – the worker, and are just a political action committee that sucks funds, spends it on their own employees, and uses the remainder for far-left causes. Oh, and do some theater during the bargaining sessions.

    If you detest what Koch is doing, you should also be for “right to work” as they specifically don’t require you to join a union even if there is one “representing” workers.

    Why should someone who isn’t far-left be forced to contribute to far-left causes any more than someone who isn’t far-right be forced to contribute to those? I haven’t heard that Koch requires mandatory paycheck deductions for right-wing organizations.

    Propaganda is speech, and although I’m annoyed with it from both sides, I am free to ignore it.

    So are the workers at Koch plants.

    This is sounding more like “because they are RIGHT-WING they have no right to speak”. Many corporations also support planned-parenthood. Would you be as upset if workers were forced to watch a presentation on the importance of planned parenthood? I don’t think so.

    I have to wonder if you are only concerned because you disagree with the content and if you ran a similar business you would be doing exactly the same thing to your workers, only the message would be the opposite – “you must vote for democrats”.

  6. Thorstein

    Telling their employees “how to vote” is certainly brazen, but non-union employees don’t need to be told this. As a non-union employee, you know that if you want to keep your job you go to your boss’s church on Sunday, you send your kids to his church’s school, and you contribute to his favorite charities and to his political candidates. Do all this, and he really shouldn’t have to care how you vote.

  7. Jack

    The state government employee unions are needed to protect their hard working members from the eeeeevil taskmasters of the public (ie you and me). Thank goodness that the Washington Union Leadership was able to pass on important talking points to the Wisconsin State Dems who decided to flee the state 2 months ago…
    http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/119252614.html

  8. Chris M.

    The internet makes regular searches of campaign contributors very easy. I have no doubt many, many employers routinely scan the list of contributors for employees (not just executives) and vendors. Any matches are rewarded or punished accordingly.

  9. PrincetonAl

    “If the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected, we will not.”

    Why is this ‘thought police’ … versus simply an opinion that may well be a true statement? Only those who fear the truth wish to suppress the expression of opinion.

    The truth is elections have consequences. After Obama was elected, Obamacare was passed. My firm had a 90% increase in healthcare costs. The company absorbed it, the employees did not feel the impact. But it cost jobs and reduced the size of bonuses.

    If you are an out-of-work oil worker in the Gulf of Mexico because of the illegal permitorium, you are probably thinking that elections have consequences on your employment.

    Just one of many examples of the fact that there are winners and losers under the current administration. Crony capitalism snuggling up the government’s party line is a winner, true free market businesses, especially smaller ones, are losers – in my opinion.

    As an employer, I would never tell my employees which way to vote. But I am happy to consider telling them where the company stands on a variety of issues and what the impact is of politicians with those issues on the company.

    In general, I have no problem with employers expressing an opinion. And workers should be – and are – free to hear all opinions and make their own decision. I think crony capitalism is a real problem, and companies speaking out on behalf of policies that fall in this category should be opposed. I certainly do. GE isn’t really high on my list of favorite companies.

    But the “Thought Police” charge is ludicrous to me – “Thought Police” are those against people expressing their independent opinion. It seems to me it is the union leaders that are more likely to fall in this category, with demonstrated desire to overturn secret ballots, history of harrassing those on the job with dissenting opinions, and history of misleading their union members of the consequences of following the union leadership line.

    Workers deserve to hear all sides of an issue and make up their own mind.

    Remember – only those who fear the truth wish to suppress the expression of opinion.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A mailing by one’s employer to one’s home, with a specific recommended slate of candidates is a completely different source of pressure than other forms of advocacy, particularly since, as the article discusses, the pressure and efforts at indoctrination also take place at work.

      The tenor of your comment and the fact that you’ve never written here before make it very likely that you are a paid shill.

      1. NOTaREALmerican

        Re: Just one of many examples of the fact that there are winners and losers under the current administration. Crony capitalism snuggling up the government’s party line is a winner, true free market businesses, especially smaller ones, are losers – in my opinion.

        He can’t be, that sentence ALONE should give a hint that he’s not a paid shill. Who would be a paid shill EXCEPT someone on the payroll OF a crony-capitalist; but a real crony-capitalist wouldn’t know he WAS a crony-capitalist so that word can only be used by a TRUE anti-authoritarian.

        Meaning, he’s one of the good guys.

        (Man, it’s tough to follow the Party line sometimes).

    2. YankeeFrank

      Obamacare sucks but that supposed 90% increase is not due to Obamacare. Its called a monopoly as you apparently know, and they can raise your health “insurance” rates to anything they want. Where you gonna go?

      Regardless, some unions are better than others, but they generally don’t have power over firing their members. They can do other things like not support you properly in a work-related hearing or some such, but its a very different dynamic when the company you work for makes it clear who you should vote for… the unspoken threat is clear — if we find out you didn’t vote as we instructed you may be fired.

  10. Anon

    I’m a registered independent, but several years ago, my boss handed me a check and told me to deposit it and then write one of my own out in the same amount to a Republican condidate (typo, but decided to let it ride!) whose ideas he supported.

    Years later, when that boss became my business partner, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I learned that he was treating our business as his own personal ATM (withdrawals only).

  11. IdahoSpud

    Look on the bright side, folks…

    So far as we are aware, ballots are still sealed and nobody in Koch Industries can see how you really voted.

    OTOH, I suppose that Diebold is already hard at work rectifying this annoying lack of information for Koch.

    As Jesse Ventura famously put it: “I don’t see what’s so great about the American 2-party system. You only get one more choice than the Cubans get.”

    1. Dirk77

      On a similar note, did Obama every carry out his pledge of ending secret ballots for unions? I suppose not, since his overlords at the US Chamber of Commerce opposed it. But possibly Mr. Compromise could cut a deal ending secret ballots everywhere, then everyone in a position of authority, corporation or union, would benefit…

  12. ambrit

    Hey there;
    It’s very interesting to see the competing ideas battle it out on this thread. If only the political candidates would do the same, with a bit more “incivility” to get closer to the “real world.”
    The person who commented about standards of living has hit the nail squarely. Everywhere you go, the struggle is to gain and then keep a “comfortable” standard of living for yourself and your in group. No rational person can realistically deny the utility of this. All progress springs from efforts made in this direction. The big conflict comes over the concept of “Repletion.” How much is enough? For whom, and who pays for it? I know we’re sliding off into the realm of moral philosophy, but the point I’m trying to make is that the moral and ethical beliefs of the powerful and influential classes have an inordinately magesterial effect in the “real world.” Thus, the power of concentrated wealth, (your Kochs et. al.) must be countered by the power of diffuse social elements, (which is organized in and by unions, political organizations etc.)
    As to the problem of diversity I bought up earlier; As power becomes more and more concentrated, the likelyhood of crisis and collapse rises exponentially as the adverse results of bad decisionmaking by the smaller and smaller controlling group become more widespread within the system. An analogy: the western powers, especially the US, encouraged their soldiers to embrace individual initiative in combat. These troops were extremely effective for their strength. The old Soviet Union required rigid obedience to orders. They suffered incredible losses only made good due to the great size of their available manpower and the ruthless recruitment policies they employed. One system sued its’ soldiers strengths to its’ advantage. The other system used the soldiers up. From the point of view of the soldiers, which 99.5% of us here in America of necessity share, which would you prefer?
    Thanks for giving us a forum to rant in.

  13. Mike

    So in other words they are behaving exactly like a union? The next thing you know they will be bussing their workers to the booths.
    This proves the obvious: corporations and unions have the same mindset.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Yeah, and I have the same ability to sway elections as the Koch douchebags. Unions represent around 11% of the American workforce currently. Union workers earn modest middle class salaries. The Kochs and their mega-corporate ilk control the vast majority of wealth in this country, they control the mass media and set the bounds of discussion, and they own over 90% of the politicians at the state and federal levels. There is corruption and laziness among union leadership, but for the most part their interests are aligned with the average American worker as they live in the same towns as their members and generally earn similar incomes (some of the heads of the biggest unions earn more, but even they would be described as middle class by most). Yes, truly small businesses’ (not ones that pretend to be small to raid the SBA coffers) interests are also aligned with those of American workers. To suggest that these people have anything in common with billionaires and their millionaire lackeys insults the intelligence. The thinking of unions is nothing like the thinking of huge corporations.

  14. NOTaREALmerican

    The liberals should have thought of THIS problem 50 years ago.

    You can’t have a Big-Gov smothering-mommy party and NOT expect there to be a corresponding opposite Big-Gov drunken-kickass-daddy party that come along for the ride.

    You want democracy, keep power decentralized. When you centralize all the power and loot in DC who do you expect will eventually control it? Yeah, the fascists, just like now.

    Too late to worry about this now tho.

    1. mike

      You want to keep Democracy? Scale back the U.S. military to something reasonable. We spend something like six or seven times what China does. We could spend twice what they do and reduce our costs by about 400 billion a year.

      The insanity of borrowing money from the rest of the world and using it to fight all their battles for them has to stop.

      We don’t need to be like Rome.

  15. ScottS

    Looks like all the devils are here.

    Don’t worry, Koch shills! We are fighting for your rights, even if you aren’t allowed to say you want them. Just give us time, and some more inside information.

    Now, get back to work! Those 50-cent posts won’t write themselves!

  16. JTFaraday

    “As the Nation piece depicts, employees of Koch entities like Georgia Pacific are repeatedly told who they should vote for.”

    Repeatedly, especially in person, I would call this harassment in the workplace.

  17. Jay

    Here in Oregon we vote entirely by mail. I wonder how long it will be until some clever right-winger decides to start supervising his employees while they fill out their ballots.

    After all, it would violate an employer’s free speech rights if he weren’t allowed to “offer” to personally help his employees fill out their ballots.

  18. Namazu

    Anyone dumb enough to vote on the basis of this clumsy mailing is also dumb enough to buy this latest “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” hoax and vote the other way. The title of the piece says it all: there must be an awful lot of dummies out there for those evil Koch brothers to actually control their thoughts!! Take two aspirin and wake me when the Nation has some actual coercion to report–something like card check, for instance.

    1. Psychoanalystus

      Thank you for sharing your brainwashed thoughts with us. We always appreciate a little comic relief here. We now return you to your regular FoxNews program, already in progress, as always is the case with most ignoramuses in this country.

      Psychoanalystus

    2. craazyman

      Actually I kind of agree. If I worked for Koch I’d surely vote the other way, whatever they said.

      I think this plan may backfire on them, like paying way too much for an acquisition.

      Having said that, there’s a lot of dumb people in the world. :) Including me.

      so who knows?

      Speaking personally, if someone tries to tell me what to do or say or think — I usually spit in their face. But whatever.

  19. wERD

    Why do all these extremely anti-union people read and post replys on naked capitalism? Especially a blog post that has absolutely nothing to do with unions. They successfully sidetracked the convo away from employee coercion of who to vote for to UNIONS R BAD!!!!

    Is this what what HBGary was all about? The full on attack of any blog that says anything negative about a corporation…I am scared

    1. Namazu

      I’m only somewhat anti-union, but I’m happy to talk about coercion. The article quotes some assistant law professor as saying the recent court decision lets employers intimidate employees into voting for their candidates: neither the quote nor the article suggests exactly how. The article also raises the near certainty that some companies will conduct mandatory meetings with an inappropriate amount of political content. I predict laws against this will be ineffective, but that well-placed YouTube videos will be devastating.

      Happy to know if I’ve missed something, but I just don’t see the beef here. Sadly, I think many on the left (including “Yves,” although I don’t know if she’ll cop to that characterization) have fallen for the latest Vast Right Wing Conspiracy theory, which given what’s been written so far (including the New Yorker piece) is small beer compared to the capture of the Federal government by the finance industry, the multinationals, and the defense contractors, an entrenched class structure, vast poverty, a rogue central bank, endless war in the Middle East, a reckless experiment with national insolvency, to name a few.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Read David Brock’s The Republican Noise Machine, or John Saloma’s Ominous Politics. These are both insider accounts from disillusioned middle of the road conservatives appalled at the orchestrated efforts of what was then an extreme right wing.

        There was and is a concerted effort to promote and inculcate right wing values. This is neither an extreme view or a conspiracy theory. It’s well documented history.

        1. Namazu

          I’m sure there are concerted efforts to do lots of things, some more successful than others. But you’re asking me to read two books without indicating whether they have anything to do with the Kochs or voter intimidation.

          This is pure speculation on my part–I have no more intention to prove or disprove it than I do to read a book by David Brock–but the recent media Koch-a-palooza feels a little, well, concerted. As some of the comments here and on any political blog show, some minds are more easily directed towards personal hatred than focused analysis and action. [Disclaimer: I hate George Soros a little, but only because I pushed myself to finish his ghastly book on reflexivity.]

          The “outrages” revealed in the article are bush-league compared to the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres of the large corporations, and probably of marginal impact. Why try and change a few votes among 50,000 employees spread across a massively gerrymandered country? Goldman, GE, Lockheed, and Exxon Mobile don’t do this kind of thing because they don’t need to, and are sophisticated enough to realize it. Were that not the case, any “coercive” communications with employees would be exquisitely worded (heck, at the Firm, there would be a study number with EM + 2 staffed to produce the first draft) to fly under the radar screen of everyone mentioned above. And that’s my point: the Koch brothers are rich, but they’re small potatoes in the big fryer. I’ve read about the think tanks they support, and the impact there is also demonstrably minor compared to that of the banks, the offshorers, and especially the war machine. I can understand why union supporters might find them irritating, but on the whole it seems to me they’re a small footnote to the story that’s being told in front of us.

  20. libarbarian

    I don’t see problem with this AS LONG as they make no attempt to discover or retaliate against workers who don’t follow their advice.

    I think the (justifiable) fear that they won’t respect those limits is behind the opposition to this.

  21. mike

    Issue advocacy is one thing. Specific instructions to vote for a particular candidate is another.

    There is a large power differential between the guy holding the bag of food and the starving people that want to eat. The voting booth may be private, but, the hungry folk will still pay extra attention to what the bag holder says.

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