November 12th, 2012

CEOs mix politics and the workplace: Part 1

Bullying is an act of organizational politics. It involves at least one person wielding power over another. Sometimes, at this blog, I extrapolate these interpersonal issues that operate at work to describe larger societal trends. When my opinion sheds light on something wrong, some readers are offended. They say to not mix politics and workplace issues.

However, in the long 2-year run-up to the 2012 election, CEOs boldly fused partisan politics with workforce issues. They crossed the line. They even told their employees how to vote. Some even threatened workers with job loss if Obama was re-elected. I didn’t make this up.

The Home Depot founder Bernie Markus and CEO publicly stated their disdain for Pres. Obama and suggested that any CEO who would not vote Republican was a fool.

According to Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times, the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case not only freed tons of corporate money for elections, it also allowed employers to exercise their “free speech” and tell employees how to vote.

David A. Siegel, chief executive of Westgate Resorts, a major time-share company, wrote to his 7,000 employees, saying that if Mr. Obama won, the prospect of higher taxes could hurt the company’s future. “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,” Mr. Siegel wrote. “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.” … “There’s no way I can pressure anybody,” he said.

Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent an information packet and letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and pulp company. The letter attacked government subsidies for “a few favored cronies” as well as “unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses.” The letter added, “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.” …

Other companies whose top executives have sent out anti-Obama letters include Rite-Hite, a manufacturer of industrial equipment based in Milwaukee, and ASG Software Solutions, based in Naples, Fla. …

Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business….

Richard Lacks, chief executive of Lacks Enterprises, an auto parts company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., wrote to his 2,300 employees … warning that an Obama victory would mean higher health care costs and higher taxes that would eat into their paychecks. “It is important that in November you vote to improve your standard of living and that will be through smaller government and less government,” he wrote.

Scott D. Farmer, chief executive of Cintas, the uniform supply company, sent a letter to his company’s 30,000 employees on Oct. 19, denouncing the Affordable Care Act … He warned employees that “the overregulation that business is facing today from the various administrative agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency” and the National Labor Relations Board “is suffocating many companies.”

Said University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer:

These are the kind of banana-republic tactics that our government regularly condemns when they occur abroad. The Bush Administration, for instance, rejected Ukrainian elections as illegitimate, in part because international observers found that managers of state-owned enterprises had “instructed their subordinates to vote for [the ruling party].”


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This entry was posted on Monday, November 12th, 2012 at 10:19 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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