Join 3,563 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


This is a public service announcement...
October 14, 2012 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known consequence of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: it may permit employers to hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees. Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination. [1]
And employers such as Koch Industries are taking full advantage of this.

Some state laws (see bottom of article) still limit employer influence on workers' political expression and participation outside of the workplace. Private Employees' Speech and Political Activity: Statutory Protection Against Employer Retaliation [pdf] is a more comprehensive survey. Practical advice for employees is also available. Practical advice for employers is even more readily available.

This was an issue even before Citizens United:
The doctrine of employment at will allows employers to fire employees for any reason whatsoever, even reasons that are arbitrary or unfair. That general power can be restricted by statute, as Congress did with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on race, religion, or gender. But without a specific state law, private employers can fire employees for their political speech.[2]
As the same article continues, while legal,
Yet surely these terminations of employees exercising their rights of citizenship are wrong. Employers ought to have the right to manage their businesses as they see fit. But when they use their economic power over people’s livelihoods to control the political behavior of U.S. citizens, it threatens American democracy.[2]
Whether legally or illegally, employers have historically tried to influence worker behavior both in and outside of the workplace in a broad variety of ways that bring up ethical questions around coercion.

Maybe the real problem is that corporate organizational structures are not, themselves, democratic.

The distinction between
affirmative vs. negative rights to free speech seems to be central to legal decisions at national vs. state levels on whether employers may restrict employee speech outside of work time and off employer property.

The situation for public employers and employees is complicated for different reasons.

In summary.
posted by eviemath (83 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Disgusting.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:08 AM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I once joked with my fiancee that we'd be smarter to just form a corporation instead of getting married. Alas, I see that I was not far wrong.
posted by wobh at 9:11 AM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


What a heartbreaking phenomenon. Stop it?
posted by parmanparman at 9:13 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whenever I read about this sort of villainy I like to cheer myself up by imagining an attempt to implement this in France.

Pointless, but it raises a smile and stops me wanting to drown things.
posted by fullerine at 9:19 AM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe the real problem is that corporate organizational structures are not, themselves, democratic.

Certainly part of the problem. Also a problem: corporations are not people. Why should rich people get (at least) two votes: one for themselves and one as the company they run?
posted by DU at 9:19 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think your link to the Koch Brothers is justified, but it's also hard for me to believe that this is a partisan issue when political discrimination is entirely legal in 46 states.
posted by lobbyist at 9:34 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've always found it amusing/terrifying that Americans cherish freedoms so much and yet consistently organize themselves into top-down hierarchical structures, as per the corporate model. I started noticing this in my public high school, which was in many ways a microcosm of American society: Those who get good marks and play nice with the powers-that-be get all kinds of privileges and the promise of a good subsequent life (should they keep being compliant), while the school also had a security apparatus approaching a police state to keep everyone else in line. Those who were really not compliant were kept in a kind of downward spiral; once you're noticed as a troublemaker it's not terribly possible to break the reputation. Meanwhile, my parents, who had played nice by the system, were working pretty faceless corporate jobs, which kept food on the table, sure, but spending eight or ten hours a day in a building without windows doing middle management seemed like a shit deal to me. Just such a hollowness to the whole experience.

It got worse in the school after Columbine. It got worse in America after 9/11.

I've been building my life around the notion of not needing bosses. I've lived mainly in shared and cooperative housing for the last six years, places with community instead of suburban isolation. And I've been lucky enough to get together a phd which puts me in a position to make projects go instead of just signing onto someone's top-down program; but I think we need a lot more cooperative businesses in the US. People don't really seem to understand what freedom is on a day to day basis. This kind of development is frankly sickening.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:40 AM on October 14, 2012 [35 favorites]


I really don't like to live my life as someone who's given in to despair, but I wonder if we won't look back on Citizens United as the moment America stopped being fixable.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2012 [14 favorites]


At least sending out mailers to your employees is actually speech.

But I am of the firm opinion that employers should have no control over employees speech or behaviour outside the workplace. The only thing that should matter is your performance of your job, period.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't blame Citizens United for this:
Unions Fine Members Who Don't Show Support for Elizabeth Warren
posted by republican at 9:53 AM on October 14, 2012


It not so obvious, so I should probably point out that there are two links in "In summary".
posted by eviemath at 9:56 AM on October 14, 2012


One of the most interesting aspects of my personal facebook "feed" is that my right-wing friends almost always post an example of "the other side" doing something bad in response to a post about "their side" doing bad, while it's far less frequent in the other direction.

The idea employees need to take an oath of fealty to work at a corporation is maddening and should make everyone shudder.
posted by maxwelton at 9:58 AM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Unions Fine Members Who Don't Show Support for Elizabeth Warren

[citation needed]
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:00 AM on October 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


Those who get good marks and play nice with the powers-that-be get all kinds of privileges and the promise of a good subsequent life (should they keep being compliant), while the school also had a security apparatus approaching a police state to keep everyone else in line. Those who were really not compliant were kept in a kind of downward spiral; once you're noticed as a troublemaker it's not terribly possible to break the reputation.

I see the problem with being branded as a troublemaker and not being able to break out of that mold but I'd be curious to see how you'd like to structure schools if you're against the "students who do well and follow school rules receive additional privileges" model of administration.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:08 AM on October 14, 2012


I really don't like to live my life as someone who's given in to despair, but I wonder if we won't look back on Citizens United as the moment America stopped being fixable.

I think you passed that point some time ago. Citizens United was just an example of how much the rich and powerful have near complete control over all mechanisms of public life.

Your politicians are almost universally wealthy, because they would not be able to afford to be politicians otherwise. They have to raise eye-watering amounts of money to bludgeon the average uneducated voter into voting for the right 'team' through saturation advertising - or at least, stop him voting for the other guy. And the wealthy paymasters who bankroll that get their voices listened to at the highest level.

They own the media, the radio, the tv, the news, the politicians, much of the legal system, and the rest of it is appointed by the politicians they do hugely influence.

The 0.1% own america, american jobs, american politics, all american media and have spent decades convincing the public at large to vote against their own interests in order to further enrich the wealthy and remove any constraints on their actions, and cheer about doing it because that's what they've been taught to believe.

Not the the US is unique in this regard, by any means, but Citizens United was just one in a long string of court decisions strengthening the power of the rich against everyone else.

The reason you haven't collapsed from the last 30 years of asset stripping is because of your immense wealth and power from where you started from, not least the money you got bankrupting the British Empire selling supplies.

But the american empire is collapsing, like all empires collapse - from the sloth and greed of the powerful who largely only think about how much they can get for themselves.

Don't worry though. You'll get used to it. But you will eventually have to give up the 'America is the best at everything' conceit. We just have to hope that you don't start too many more big wars to further enrich the wealthiest before you all catch on.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


You can't blame Citizens United for this:
Unions Fine Members Who Don't Show Support for Elizabeth Warren


Which union is that, by the way? I'm very interested in this.
posted by Talez at 10:37 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've always found it amusing/terrifying that Americans cherish freedoms so much and yet consistently organize themselves into top-down hierarchical structures, as per the corporate model. I started noticing this in my public high school, which was in many ways a microcosm of American society: Those who get good marks and play nice with the powers-that-be get all kinds of privileges and the promise of a good subsequent life (should they keep being compliant), while the school also had a security apparatus approaching a police state to keep everyone else in line. Those who were really not compliant were kept in a kind of downward spiral; once you're noticed as a troublemaker it's not terribly possible to break the reputation. Meanwhile, my parents, who had played nice by the system, were working pretty faceless corporate jobs, which kept food on the table, sure, but spending eight or ten hours a day in a building without windows doing middle management seemed like a shit deal to me. Just such a hollowness to the whole experience.

I have long maintained that we actually lost the Cold War.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:04 AM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm looking forward to firing all the republicans at work on Monday. Oh yeah, that's right I'm not an evil fascist fuck.

The more they just try to suppress our voices by crying class warfare, the more they bring it on. The only thing left to be determined is how bad things will get and how long it will take before there's real violence. For better or worse, I still think it's a long way off. As long as there's cable TV and food on the table, we'll put up with a lot worse before total revolt -- 70, 80 hour work weeks, the complete failure of public schools, epidemics of preventable diseases, even higher incarceration rates. Given that revolution is unlikely in my lifetime, I still think that active political resistance is the best way to slow this progression. Disengagement from the political process in the face of what appears to be a totally stacked deck is dangerous. We can't overturn Citizens United right now, but it is within our grasp to avoid sending a billionaire to the White House and isn't that something at least?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


The bringing up of unions in any thread about corporate personhood is such a red herring. Corporations exist to turns X wages into X+1 value for the corporate owner (the "capitalist" of the capitalist system). Unions are a completely different kind of entity, where the purpose is to work together to accomplish some goal where only by working together can it be accomplished (strikes, voting as a bloc, etc).
posted by DU at 11:23 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Which union is that, by the way?

It's the International Brotherhood of Pretenders and Impersonators. The link is to a short story in The Weakly Standard referring to an unavailable video supplied by an unnamed Republican, which allegedly shows a supposed member of an unidentified union, who claims he'd be subject to a fine (the amount of which he changes radically within one line of the story) for not attending a debate.

The Scott Brown campaign has been remarkable for its absence of fact. This is just more of that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [30 favorites]


Whenever I read about this sort of villainy I like to cheer myself up by imagining an attempt to implement this in France.

Heh. Just a couple days ago, a friend in a US state that shall remain unnamed, who works for a Huge International US-Based IT Corporation, which shall also remain unnamed, talked about how distasteful it was that their employer sent them a corporate email (on business hours) asking them to donate to their PAC.

I about fell off my couch. That kind of thing is so inappropriate here, it hurts. And by "it hurts" I mean there would indeed be people out in the streets willing to deal with tear gas and rubber bullets if anything even remotely near employers influencing employees' politics were suggested here. No exaggeration. You should see the declaration-fights that happen when my own company's management (French) tries to influence the way internal company elections are handled. Money isn't even involved, we're talking about relatively banal underhanded things like not telling people that a certain candidate was named by management as opposed to being named by a union/group of unions (most of them work together, the main exception being the union of business owners, ha). And yet we get friggin' philosophical tracts on the meaning of citizenship, unions, management practices and elections flying every which way, threats of strikes, you name it. You know things are different when business owners form a union as opposed to a PAC.

France has really tight laws on campaign spending and funding:
Spending and financing of campaigns and political parties are highly regulated. There is a cap on spending, at approximately 20 million euros, and government public financing of 50% of spending if the candidate scores more than 5% [in the first round of a previous presidential election]. If the candidate receives less than 5% of the vote, the government funds €800,000 to the party (€150,000 paid in advance). Advertising on TV is forbidden but official time is given to candidates on public TV. An independent agency regulates election and party financing.
Can you imagine the bliss of no political ads? Candidates are required to have equal time on public TV too, all overseen by that independent agency.
posted by fraula at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


The bringing up of unions in any thread about corporate personhood is such a red herring. Corporations exist to turns X wages into X+1 value for the corporate owner (the "capitalist" of the capitalist system). Unions are a completely different kind of entity, where the purpose is to work together to accomplish some goal where only by working together can it be accomplished (strikes, voting as a bloc, etc).

Mmmm... no. The intention of a union's existence doesn't exempt it from criticism when engaging in corrupt and/or coercive practices.

The problem with the specific mention of union activity in this thread is that it's not conclusively documented.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The link is to a short story in The Weakly Standard referring to an unavailable video supplied by an unnamed Republican...

The video is available for me; that said, its provenance is still suspect. I think it identifies the union as a carpentry union, but I'm not sure. The video is clearly clandestine (or at least intended to look that way), and the person taking the video is clearly behaving in a deceptive manner.

Which is kind of beside the point. I can believe that unions do that kind of thing. But "good for the goose so good for the gander" is generally accepted as a morally non-viable position in the company of ethical human Americans.
posted by lodurr at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2012


The intention of a union's existence doesn't exempt it from criticism when engaging in corrupt and/or coercive practices.

Didn't claim it did. I'm responding to the widespread "corporations shouldn't have lobbying rights"/"well what about unions" pairing that constantly happens. Corporate lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a small number of people at the top. Union lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a large number of people at the bottom.
posted by DU at 11:41 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mentioned before that I worked for a company owned by Richard Riordan when he first ran for Mayor of Los Angeles. The office was in the City of Pasadena. Still, the management told the supervisors to warn everyone about "embarrassing" displays of political opinion. Before that, working for Executive Life after it was seized by the State of California made the next election for Insurance Commissioner (and yes, it is an elected position) awwwkwaaard.

So I learned long ago that Freedom of Speech (and the entire Bill of Rights) does NOT apply to employees in the workplace and those who believe so are (today more than ever) unemployable.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:51 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The video is available for me....

OK; I assumed the Flashblocked content was some kind of an ad, and I have no interest in letting the WS run scripts at me.

At any rate, if there were any truth at all to this claim of union fines for not supporting Warren, I assure you that the Boston Herald would have it in three-inch type on every newsstand in the state. They don't. It's too far into the bullshit zone even for the Herald.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:51 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Corporate lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a small number of people at the top. Union lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a large number of people at the bottom.

This highlights the intentions of the corporation vs the union as entities, and are absolutely irrelevant. The issue is the power of an entity to coerce the people under its influence for political ends. The interesting part here is that such behavior even predates Citizens United, and was never exclusive to entities that enjoy for-profit corporate status.

The specific mention of union activity, however, has not been corroborated.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:57 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have long maintained that we actually lost the Cold War.

Yes, me too - and there was no winner in either of the main competitors, in the sense of "the triumph of freedom" (for ordinary folks) or any other of the deluded phrases that were trumpeted in the US in the wake of the Soviet collapse. (This is not to discount the very real gains for Eastern Europe, despite the neo-liberal economic woes and other back-slidings that now plague them as much as the rest of Europe.) To put it very crudely, when you fight fire with fire, generally you end up with ashes all around. (See also Gandhi's quote re an eye for an eye...) One totalizing, excessively centralized & highly hierarchical system vs. another, with selfish, acquisitive oligarchies on both sides pushing for ever more for themselves - how else could it have turned out? On the Russian side, they abandoned the justifying ideology and the more grandiose aspirations to empire for something more basically nationalist and with deeper roots in traditional Russian authoritarianism (e.g., note how bound up with the symbolic authority of the Orthodox Church, as an adjunct of state power, the persecution of Pussy Riot is); on the American side, well... We still have the basic problem of getting people even to see things as they really are, let alone get exercised to do something about it.

I know this binary analysis leaves out China, but that situation too can be understood within a capitalist, oligarchical framework. It's just that there the Communist window dressing remains in place while the Party functions as a directing meta-corporation making sure that no real democracy or democratic socialism interferes with the business of business (to echo the old Calvin Coolidge quote, that "the business of America is business!") This is where I agree with Zizek about China increasingly demonstrating the future of capitalism: one stripped of any democratic pretence. It's a system at least as corrupt as the US's and perhaps even more hypocritical in its ideological pronouncements (when it even bothers to make any.)
posted by Philofacts at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Corporate lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a small number of people at the top. Union lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a large number of people at the bottom.

About 50 percent of Americans own stock. About 12 percent are in unions (and that percentage has never been higher than 35). At best, you can say that union lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a slightly larger number of people in the middle.
posted by Etrigan at 12:19 PM on October 14, 2012


About 50 percent of Americans own stock.

By this reasoning, if I lend you money, and then you beat me savagely with a baseball bat, steal my wallet, and use the money thus obtained to pay me back with interest, I am your accomplice.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:34 PM on October 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


I've been building my life around the notion of not needing bosses. I've lived mainly in shared and cooperative housing for the last six years, places with community instead of suburban isolation.

Totally with you here. This is a big part of what drove me to help establish and continue maintaining a hackerspace: it's just a fun place to hang out with friends and make stuff, but it's also an attempt at putting my money where my mouth is, and showing that we can accomplish what we want with distributed, cooperative, non-coercive structures and not just with hierarchical, ownership-oriented structures. Large corporations are evil, we all know that; anything that big and that powerful and that hierarchical is going to do evil regardless of its founders' intentions. So let's figure out what we can replace them with.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:44 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


About 50 percent of Americans own stock. About 12 percent are in unions (and that percentage has never been higher than 35). At best, you can say that union lobbying is about increasing the wealth of a slightly larger number of people in the middle.

This is a hollow argument.

As one of the links points out, your average stockholder doesn't have a lot of decision-making power within corporate governance structures, and despite in some sense being an "owner", doesn't even have the right to be on company property without authorization. The fact that a significant portion of Americans own a little bit of stock is pretty much unrelated to the aims of corporate lobbying.

Likewise, union lobbying goals can depend on the governance structure as well as ideology or culture of the union in question. Membership in the IWW was never a large percentage of the US population, yet their political aims included decreasing economic inequality and increasing wealth for all lower- and middle-class people (and not just in the US). Other unions have had larger membership, but less democratic governance structures, and have been accused of striking deals that benefit only the union leadership (eg. some scandals from the mid-1900s come to mind), not even the rank and file, let alone the middle class as a whole.
posted by eviemath at 12:45 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This highlights the intentions of the corporation vs the union as entities, and are absolutely irrelevant. The issue is the power of an entity to coerce the people under its influence for political ends. The interesting part here is that such behavior even predates Citizens United, and was never exclusive to entities that enjoy for-profit corporate status

The key difference between a union and an employer is that the worker relies on the employer for a job, which they need in order to provide a livelihood for themselves and their family. The employer thus has power over the worker, and consequent ability to coerce (as two of the links discuss), that the vast majority of unions don't have. (Have a falling out with your union, and at worst your fellow employees may make themselves very unpleasant to work with, but you still have a job.)
posted by eviemath at 12:53 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


A group of capital owners bargaining in their collective interests is an unmitigated good, the engine of American liberty and success.

A group of laborers bargaining in their collective interests is communism, an unmitigated evil that must be wiped from the Earth.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:55 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Listen guys, the point here is that the more money you have, the more free speech you get. That's what free speech means! If I make twice as much as you, your opinion doesn't matter. Wealth is righteousness! If you're poor you deserve to be!

And of course unions are every bit as powerful as multinational corporations. Remember that strike teacher strike in Chicago? Wheels nearly fell off the USA babe. Unions run this joint.
posted by Mister_A at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


"In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue— control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is— a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings."

- Kim Stanley Robinson
posted by mikurski at 2:01 PM on October 14, 2012 [28 favorites]


I once joked with my fiancee that we'd be smarter to just form a corporation instead of getting married.

I've often wondered why many polygamists don't form corporations and then put their finances / property in the name of the corp and have bylaws preventing any action without majority or unanimous vote from the stockholders (i.e. the spouses). I think this is the only way to make such a relationship work on the legal and financial side of things.

Maybe this would be a good alternative for gay couples in states which don't allow gay marriage.

Next time a family member gets married, I'll have to buy them a corp and maybe a PAC too.


posted by honestcoyote at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Coal miners forced to attend Romney event and donate to his campaign
posted by homunculus at 2:58 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


republican: Unions Fine Members Who Don't Show Support for Elizabeth Warren

lodurr: I can believe that unions do that kind of thing.

I can't believe it, having some experience with unions myself. I fail to see how exactly a union could compel a member to engage in particular political behavior or speech.

Even the WS itself contradicts your claims:


“The New England Carpenters Union never has and never will fine a member for not participating in political activity and does not pay members for their participation," said Mark Erlich, secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, in a statement to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The unidentified man in the video claims first he was threated with a fine of $150, then $250, if he did not come to support Warren at an earlier debate in Lowell.

"Did you guys get fined if you weren't there?" the cameraman asks.

"Yeah," the union member
[sic] replies.

While our legal system affords employers the freedom to compel individual behavior, unions typically do not have this authority. On the contrary, union members have well-established rights to decline to financially support their union's political activities. Clearly such a fine would run afoul of that doctrine.

tl;dr: You right-wingers are full of shit.
posted by univac at 3:31 PM on October 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


Also, employers have long enjoyed the freedom to hold captive audience meetings with employees to indoctrinate them against supporting unions (except for under very special, time-limited circumstances). Where has the outrage been all this time?
posted by univac at 3:35 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn good post, eviemath. You have added some mighty spongeballs to my Nerf gun, and vinegar to my water pistol. Ready, now, for battle.
posted by dmayhood at 4:26 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the problem with pernicious lies like the forced Warren support thing is they get told so often, that even when they are proved wrong someone thinks, "I can believe that." Sure, because you've heard it so many times. Everyone knows union workers are lazy and only work like 2 hours a day, right?
posted by adamdschneider at 4:35 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the Greenfield "Stakeholder Strategy" link:


If companies gave voice to a more diverse and pluralistic set of interests, the fact that corporations speak would not undermine democracy. On the contrary, corporate speech would reflect it.

That's precisely the problem with this idea. To be heard and considered in any realistic way, you still would have to be, or rely on, a corporation -- the bigger, the better. And, the very last thing corporate leaders want is a democratic corporation, so that won't happen. This proposal fails for the reason that libertarianism, corporatism and modern conservatism fail: it does not deal with vast inequities in the distribution of power in our societies. That's a tough nut to crack, and the Stakeholder Strategy does not do it.
posted by dmayhood at 5:06 PM on October 14, 2012


homunculus, that has been debunked.
posted by republican at 6:00 PM on October 14, 2012


For more on the contradictions of the workplace in America, see Let it Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace.
posted by mek at 6:29 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Republican, that link doesn't debunk anything, it's just an extremely partisan outlet putting its own spin on the story. If it was actually debunked, you'll need actual evidence.
posted by mek at 6:30 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


The use of lies to advance the right is getting soooo old.

Stop it, liar.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's just an extremely partisan outlet putting its own spin on the story.

Breitbart is partisan, no doubt. But the story being "debunked" appears to originate with a website called the Raw Story, which Wikipedia quotes both Newsweek and Howard Kurtz describing as a liberal blog, and a West Virginia AM-radio shock jock. So it rings a bit disingenuous when you hand-wave at another MeFite because his link isn't exactly the New York Times.
posted by cribcage at 6:50 PM on October 14, 2012


I don't see the Raw Story referenced anywhere in the link provided. I also don't see any actual "debunking" going on, or any reference to any other reporting at all, anywhere in that Breitbart link.
posted by mek at 6:57 PM on October 14, 2012


Maybe you're unclear what's being discussed...? Here's the comment that Republican was replying to.
posted by cribcage at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2012


The Raw Story appears to confirm the story about Murray Energy requiring workers to attend a Romney rally, not debunk it. In multiple separate stories, in fact:posted by eviemath at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, now this is just becoming funny.
posted by cribcage at 7:10 PM on October 14, 2012


Yes, in addition to being the link to the story via Dangerous Minds, in homunculus' link.
posted by eviemath at 7:20 PM on October 14, 2012


Maybe you're unclear what republican is claiming, cribcage...?
posted by mek at 7:27 PM on October 14, 2012


Well don't keep us on tenterhooks — tell us!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:45 PM on October 14, 2012


So it rings a bit disingenuous

Sorry if you took my statement as "disingenuous." To be clear, I was calling bullshit. What was claimed by republican, that the story linked to by homunculus was debunked, was completely wrong. It was not debunked, because it happened, and dozens of nonpartisan outlets reported on it.

Finally, I want to assure you that my insistence on our discussion being grounded in facts is borne out of a genuine desire to find truth. If you occasionally perceive this as leading me to be "disingenuous" either I have misspoken, or your ideology is getting in the way of reality.
posted by mek at 7:54 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've often wondered why many polygamists don't form corporations and then put their finances / property in the name of the corp and have bylaws preventing any action without majority or unanimous vote from the stockholders (i.e. the spouses). I think this is the only way to make such a relationship work on the legal and financial side of things.

Because I don't think polygamy is about wanting the fair distribution of assets.
posted by gjc at 8:04 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really do think this is becoming silly, Mek, but I also don't mean to seem rude by not replying to your comment(s). So okay, one last attempt to clarify—because hey, the reality is that maybe you're right and I'm the one who wasn't reading carefully.

You took issue with Breitbart, and I turned around and took issue with Raw Story. You responded, "I don't see the Raw Story referenced anywhere." The only way I can make sense of that comment is that you didn't actually read Homunculus's link before jumping to its defense. If I'm wrong about that, then I apologize. If I'm right, well, then that ideology-getting-in-the-way thing might be worth a second look. That's all.
posted by cribcage at 8:16 PM on October 14, 2012


I think I contributed to the confusion by misreading and conflating one of cribcage's comments with one of mek's; I thought that someone was claiming that Raw Story was debunking the claims.
posted by eviemath at 8:20 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


mek, did you even go to the link? Here's a video of the the press conference. Are all 500 miners lying?
posted by republican at 8:24 PM on October 14, 2012


Not all 500 miners complained of being forced to attend the rally. I'm sure there were some among that group who were happy to attend. But some allegedly weren't. As one of the Raw Story links I posted indicates, a group called ProgressOhio felt they had enough evidence to file a complaint with the FEC. That was in late September, so we can all keep a look out for a ruling in... I don't know, how long does it take for the FEC to investigate and rule on such complaints?

It appears to be in keeping with a larger (alleged) pattern on the part of Murray Energy, as is also reported in The New Republic, and the company's other elections-related activities are also the subject of a complain to the FEC by the Ohio Democratic Party (from the third Raw Story link in my comment above), which could also be followed up on to see how the FEC rules.
posted by eviemath at 8:37 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anything that advances the end of ownership of physical resources is spiritual progression disguised as political necessity. In twenty years, half the jobs now done by humans are going to be done by machines (cite: my own fervid imagination). How can you keep up the illusion that physical objects are private and have value? Have you even looked at the direction makerbot and stereolithography are headed towards? How shortsighted can you be? The kind of discourse referenced in Citizens United is going to be the ONLY THING OF VALUE in a short while. The fast money is getting there first (as always) and it surely doesn't have"workers'" best interests in mind.
posted by newdaddy at 8:43 PM on October 14, 2012


The New Republic article has more links to sources, including a whole bunch of internal companies correspondence, by the way.
posted by eviemath at 8:46 PM on October 14, 2012


You took issue with Breitbart, and I turned around and took issue with Raw Story.

A perfect demonstration of how you're clinging to he-said-she-said non-journalism in the face of total consensus antithetical to your personal opinions. Point to a story that actually claims what republican pretended the Breitbart article claimed. Show me the journalism that debunks the coal miner story. I'll be waiting.
posted by mek at 8:52 PM on October 14, 2012


@republican: Your first link claims be written by the Century Mine employees, but what authority actually wrote the letter? A non-union organization isn't a representative of labour and it's should be treated as a representative of the owners. The Breitbart link also mentions a list of signatures that represents the employees, but these could have also been taken coercively if the representative authority wasn't a labour union.

Who the hell is the identified speaker in the Youtube video? What is the main speaker's role in the company? Is the speaker an elected president of the labour union?
posted by DetriusXii at 8:56 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In one of the memos to managers, company owner Bob Murray closes with the paragraph, "Please see that our salaried employees 'step up', for their own sakes and those of their employer." In /another, he wines about lack of participation on the part of salaried employees in terms that strongly imply that retaliation may be considered, and indicates that a list of employees who didn't come to fundraising meetings was originally attached. Another of the original documents linked in The New Republic article indicates that employees were expected to send their checks via company headquarters, so that the company could keep tabs on employees' donations.

So on the basis of a preponderance of primary evidence, I, personally, find it quit believable that employees would be coerced into attending the Romney rally in question, or at least that a climate of intimidation around employees political activity led some who were not Romney supporters to feel that they could face repercussions for not attending the rally. But I'm happy to wait on the FEC ruling for more evidence.
posted by eviemath at 9:03 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll be waiting.

Tell me you're joking. Tell me you are not honestly copping attitude because you got called-out with your foot in your mouth over a silly and trivial derail. I will seriously mail you a quarter if you promise me that last comment was meant in pure good-natured humor. That's how relieved I will be.
posted by cribcage at 9:22 PM on October 14, 2012


From the "another" link above: What is so difficult about asking a well-paid, salaried employee to give us three (3) hours of his/her time every two months? We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.

This attitude of ownership of employees (which I have unfortunately encountered in the flesh) makes me (metaphorically) puke, especially since these gasbags never seem to understand what is so odious about their entitlement. Truly clueless.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:23 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe stop digging the hole for yourself, cribcage?
posted by bardic at 10:15 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cribcage, I've meant every word I've said in this thread. I'd appreciate it if you stopped repeatedly claiming otherwise. If you have a problem with me, take it to meta or memail.
posted by mek at 10:34 PM on October 14, 2012


[Please cut out the making-it-personal stuff here and return to public discussion.]
posted by taz at 10:42 PM on October 14, 2012


... so anyway... what do folks think of the arguments about coercion, or the couple prescriptions for changing stuff that one or two of the links suggest? Reversing Citizens United would curb some of the abuses outlines in the links, but what about the others that were legal even before Citizens United in "at will" states, or the ones that aren't legal but that companies get away with regardless?
posted by eviemath at 6:23 AM on October 15, 2012


I love the idea that there are bunch of liberals working for Koch who are offended by this. Yeah, right.
posted by mattbucher at 6:42 AM on October 15, 2012


I love the idea that there are bunch of liberals working for Koch who are offended by this.

Let's set aside the wishy-washy term "liberals" and take hold of its doppleganger, "Democrats", which is probably more relevant to your comment anyway. Are there Democrats that work for (unpleasant right-wing employer)? Yes, of course there are. There are Democrats working at oil companies, at military contractors, in the Pentagon, at Koch Industries, etcetera. Plenty of us have taken jobs we don't philosophically agree with (not that this is even necessarily the case), because, umm, we need the money. Employers coerce employees into doing things they don't want to do, in exchange for money. This is what employment is.

If the employer's power extends out of the workplace and into politics, well, then you have employers that coerce employees into voting for things they don't want to vote for, in exchange for money. And that is, quite obviously, a bad thing.
posted by mek at 10:26 AM on October 15, 2012


Employers coerce employees into doing things they don't want to do, in exchange for money. This is what employment is.

A photo on a friend's facebook had the quote, "How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?" (Attributed to Charles Bukowski, Factotum, 1975.)

So is this coercion on the part of employers in political matters of a different kind, or merely of a different magnitude? I.e., is the problem, respectively, that we don't have the right regulatory structures to ensure that employment doesn't infringe on citizens' democratic participation, or is it that capitalism is fundamentally undemocratic (both in a fundamental structure based on coercive relationships, as well as on the problem that it's difficult for people to practice democratic skills when they spend all day in workplaces organized on totalitarian principles)?
posted by eviemath at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2012


Democracy Now interview with the author of the In These Times piece: Koch Brothers Among U.S. Billionaires Pressuring Thousands of Employees to Vote GOP on Election Day
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are moving to a new age of feudalism, with the corporation replacing the lord of the manor.

Or, what mikurski said.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


In other news: Koch Sued by Executive Claiming He Was Held Captive
posted by homunculus at 3:08 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


univac: tl;dr: You right-wingers are full of shit.

While I'm sympathetic to your aim, you're not actually on much stronger ground here than the person you're trying to refute. (Which isn't me, by the way.) You cite a public statement by an institution as support for your claim that said institution doesn't do the bad thing it's accused of, which is evidence that I submit you would never accept if it were given to you. Unions probably don't have formal means for doing that kind of thing, and I would like to think they mostly don't have informal means, either. But you know what? I've been told, by old union guys (not recently, mind you) about exactly this kind of thing going on in their shop. They didn't like it and swore that if they were in charge it wouldn't happen, but I had no reason to doubt them at the time.

We need to accept that while as union supporters, we think the aims are noble and the overall effects are good, unions are not wholly and inherently good. They can be and often have been corrupted for the benefit of people who want to gain and use power. Why do we need to accept that? Because if we don't, we're vulnerable to bullshit tit-for-tat challenges on the order of "well, this guy got fined for not attending a rally so you're exactly as bad as we are." Which is not a hypothetical, I hear it all the time from movement conservatives: Some union somewhere did a bad thing, so all employers everywhere are totally justified in suppressing unions. Forget about the dubious logic involved, because this isn't about logic, it's about the sense of fairness and betrayal: This line of attack only works because defenders of unions buy into the idea that they're shining and white and clean -- conservatives (rightly or wrongly, I'd say the latter but that's my perspective) see their sense of fairness violated, union supporters feel betrayed because they've been relying on a sense of righteousness based in infallibility.

BTW, "tl;dr" normally expands as "too long: didn't read." So either I'm kind of missing the significance of that, or you're indicating that you're not interested in entertaining the possibility that unions might do bad stuff. The latter would be foolish.
posted by lodurr at 2:01 AM on October 16, 2012


I'll add: When you fight the devil, sometimes you become what you behold. Consider this comparison of union relations in German and the US:
Workers in the German auto industry maintain high wages and good working conditions through two overlapping sets of institutions. First, in the auto industry, virtually all workers are unionized members of IG Metall, the German autoworkers’ union. With such union density, workers have considerable power to keep wages high. German autoworkers have the right to strike, but as Horst Mund, head of the International Department of IG Metall explained to Remapping Debate, they “hardly use it, because there is an elaborate system of conflict resolution that regularly is used to come to some sort of compromise that is acceptable to all parties.”

In addition to high trade union density supporting the power of German autoworkers’ wages, the German constitution itself includes a second mechanism for keeping employees involved in the decisions of the firm for which they work. The Works Constitution Act provides for the creation of Works Councils in each factory. The Works Councils provide a mechanism through which a company’s management must work with employees, whether they are in a union or not, on issues affecting work life, such as shop floor conditions, scheduling shifts, and other issues particular to the factory. This system, according to Mund, institutionalized “direct contact for workers’ representatives with management at various levels, from lower to middle to senior management in daily affairs. So you exercise some kind of dialogue where you don’t always wear your management pin or your union pin.”

Mund points out that the German example goes “against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages…despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.”

Are German unions nice and American unions nasty?

Mund says “there are strong contradictions between the way companies that…are used to dealing with unions in Germany, behave differently when they go elsewhere, not only in the U.S., but also in other countries.” What accounts for the differences?

Michael Maibach, president and chief executive officer of the European American Business Council, described this apparent difference by saying that union-management relations in the U.S. were “adversarial" as opposed to the "collaborative” German model. J. Ed Marston, a spokesperson for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, likewise told Remapping Debate that “Workers councils in Germany promote cooperation between workers and managers and they deliver value and they continue to thrive…Compared to UAW, where there is an adversarial relationship.”

According to Mund, however, “The accusation that American unions are more radical and destructive…definitely has to do with the hostile environment in which the unions have to act. How can they be constructive and friendly if their asses are kicked all the time?” Mund sees the lauding of “cooperation” in the German context as profoundly misleading, saying “they would not talk to us either if they had the choice.”

Mund emphasized the importance of the trade union and works councils in maintaining workers’ participation and high levels of remuneration, and said that the focus was not to maintain the good will of individual firms. He said, “Companies in Germany, while they are bound by law to work with us in works councils, and we are present on supervisory boards, they just have to do this. For most of the companies, not for all, it is not something they would do if they were not forced to do that. The companies are there to make profit, and in the eyes of many managers we are not conducive to making as much profit as possible, but rather a hindrance.”
[emph added]

In this case, the argument seems to me to be (and I think this is correct) that external coercion by the state takes away some of the adversarial sense. The corporations have to do it -- not doing it is not an option -- so they cooperate. In America, not cooperating is always assumed to be an option. (So, maybe some cultural issues there as well, but maybe not as many as would commonly be supposed.)
posted by lodurr at 2:21 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Colorado moves to eliminate secret ballot... Editorial: Appeal decision on Colorado voter privacy
posted by mek at 10:14 AM on October 19, 2012


Bill Moyers Essay: When Bosses Push Their Politics

Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland on the One Percent’s Power and Privileges
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Colbert Report: CEO Blackmail & FEC Consent - Thanks to the Federal Election Commission, a CEO can require his employees to campaign for the candidate of his choice while the employee has no choice.
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older In a triumph of both technology and agriculture, t...  |  How Venice's 1% put an end to ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments