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Oh to live in Florida now that fall is here.
October 27, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Can the company fire you for the way you vote? When workers are forced to go to rallies in communist countries, we call that Stalinism. Here, we call it the free market. Featuring David Siegel, CEO of Florida's Westgate Resorts; and Florida-based ASG Software CEO Arthur Allen.
posted by adamvasco (62 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
How is the company supposed to know how you vote?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:34 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You guys still have secret ballots, right?
posted by samhyland at 4:34 PM on October 27, 2012


They're planning on taking the money and running anyway. If Romney wins, they'll just have a brief phony 'boomlet' allowing them to make a little more money before running.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


spoiler: the answer is "technically yes".

Due to the general secret ballot nature of our electoral system, they can't really find out, but you get people (the two guys mentioned, for example) saying 'and if the guy we support doesn't win we'll have to START FIRING YOU ALL FOR DISLOYALTY'.

The article also notes that in fact protections of your job for things that don't actually matter to it in substantive manner only exist in four states. So if, say, you were a tabletop gamer and your boss thought that was stupid (or evil for us D&D players), they could fire you for that.

As I've mentioned before, when I worked for Citigroup, they pushed you to have automatic deductions from your paycheck to the CitiPAC, and sent out 'preferred candidate' emails from CitiPAC to everyone, but they never did they 'and we'll fire you if you don't prove you voted our way'. (As far as I know.) I do know most of my coworkers were kind of insanely conservative (I define this as a few indicating they thought that Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly were 'maybe a little too liberal'.)
posted by mephron at 4:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this has been going around for a while and has seemed a little hysterical to me. None of these people has actually threatened to fire anyone for voting in a particular way (nor would that really be feasible except in rare, isolated cases), and I don't think there is anything wrong with messages that say, "look, I think Political Outcome X is best for this company and your job security, and I'd recommend you vote accordingly."
posted by eugenen at 4:39 PM on October 27, 2012


Whenever people try to tell me the UK would be better of outside the EU I point them at US labour laws and ask if that's more what they were thinking of. Sometimes I wonder whether you guys might not manage another revolution yet.
posted by howfar at 4:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Here's an instance of employee intimidation, admitted to openly in the newspaper, in a business along the front range.
posted by Seamus at 4:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here in Mexico, there's also technically a secret ballot, but there are several schemes to defeat it. For instance, requiring people to take a cell phone photo of their marked ballot, which led to cell phones and cameras being banned at polling stations, and a more subtle scheme, where the person is given a pre-marked ballot to submit, and had to bring back the blank one they were given, so that it can be pre-marked and given to someone else, repeating the cycle.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


The issue here is the pathetic state of employment law in the U.S.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


It must be noted that if the employees vote for the guy their bosses want and he still loses, they lose their jobs anyway.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm. I wonder to what extent Obamacare will make leaving shitty abusive jobs easier.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [21 favorites]


It seems the "We'll drive the country over the fiscal cliff and fire everybody and crash the economy" is the conservative equivalent to the liberal "I'm moving to Canada."
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Colorado judge rules there is no constitutional right to a secret ballot.
posted by mek at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think there is anything wrong with messages that say, "look, I think Political Outcome X is best for this company and your job security, and I'd recommend you vote accordingly."
Gosh, I think there's a great deal wrong with that. That is the kind of process that happens in companies that hastily cover up sexual harassment, toxic work environments, and illegal activities: "It would be better for the company and your job security if you didn't follow your moral beliefs."
posted by Peach at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


So one man who made his fortune selling vacation properties whines that he deserves the whole world because he never took a vacation, while another claims that his company has been buying up other companies and laying off employees, and that has been good, but if the present administration stays in power his company will be purchased and its employees laid off, which will be bad. Got it.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


"We'll drive the country over the fiscal cliff and fire everybody and crash the economy cash out." (FTFY) The American Economy will be better off without them. Demand will still exist. Just maybe some less assholish "job creators" will fill the hole.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:51 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems like it would be fairly easy to require your employees to register for early postal voting, then inspect their ballots before they get sent in.

As long you don't explicitly threaten them, but just happen to fire anyone who votes the wrong way or refuses to play along it would even be legal.

American capitalism is the new serfdom.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:53 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


You guys still have secret ballots, right?

Only sort of. Washington and Oregon are completely vote-by-mail now, meaning that anyone with power over you can demand to see your marked ballot before you send it in. Many other states are largely vote-by-mail in practice, even if secret voting is still an option.
posted by hattifattener at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


None of these people has actually threatened to fire anyone for voting in a particular way (nor would that really be feasible except in rare, isolated cases), and I don't think there is anything wrong with messages that say, "look, I think Political Outcome X is best for this company and your job security, and I'd recommend you vote accordingly."

A veiled threat is still a threat.

But, yeah, I basically agree that it's not, strictly speaking, "Vote X or else Y." It's more like, "We're gonna do Y, and we want you blame someone -- Obama, yourselves, each other, whatever -- other than us."
posted by Sys Rq at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is a lot of scary nonsense. For one thing, your boss has no idea who you vote for; if necessary, you can talk his man up around the workplace and moan if he loses, just like any other kiss-up you're required to do to keep your job. But the idea that the company is going to fire all the people they think voted the "wrong" way is pretty unrealistic - for one thing, couldn't all those employees collect unemployment because they were fired for an unjust cause? And what would the company do to itself by firing a bunch of their employees all at once?

Nah - just more scare tactics from the right. The amazing part is that so many people fall for them - that's what I find frightening.
posted by aryma at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


How is the company supposed to know how you vote?

I can think of a few ways. You could photograph a local Obama rally and scan the photos for employees. You could find out from lawn signs. You could phone someone of interest and misrepresent yourself as a pollster. You possibly could find out from their work computer, if you had access...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


And you wouldn't fire them for voting a certain way; you'd find another reason.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:57 PM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Gosh, I think there's a great deal wrong with that. That is the kind of process that happens in companies that hastily cover up sexual harassment, toxic work environments, and illegal activities: "It would be better for the company and your job security if you didn't follow your moral beliefs."

That's a pretty brutally false equivalence. Covering up harassment and illegal activity =/= encouraging a political outcome.

I don't like ridiculous "I'll have to go out of business and fire you all!" scaremongering any more than you do, but I think it's insulting to suggest that the recipients aren't perfectly capable of taking that sort of thing with the giant grain of salt it merits.

Seems like it would be fairly easy to require your employees to register for early postal voting, then inspect their ballots before they get sent in.

Do you know of any employer who's done this? Threatened to do it? Can you imagine the PR fiasco that would ensue? This is a fantasy for people who like to say things like "American capitalism is the new serfdom."
posted by eugenen at 4:58 PM on October 27, 2012


Colorado judge rules there is no constitutional right to a secret ballot.

You have no constitutional right to vote for president so why would you have a right to a secret ballot?
posted by Talez at 4:59 PM on October 27, 2012


Covering up harassment and illegal activity =/= encouraging a political outcome.

Precisely how is the idea of 'vote as we want you to or lose your job' not an example of harassing behavior on the part of an employer?
posted by mephron at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regardless of how you vote, though, you (should) still have the right to support whomever you want and not be forced to put a Romney sign in front of your house. Forced echo chambers are antidemocratic, and the comparison to Stalinism is entirely warranted.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seamus: "Here's an instance of employee intimidation, admitted to openly in the newspaper, in a business along the front range."

Makes me want to reach through the screen and slap some of the commenters (and the author of the letter). I don't know about the rest of you guys, but if it weren't for the government and the efforts of a lot of university affiliated folks I'd have to go to work every day. What a waste of gas that would be.
posted by wierdo at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Precisely how is the idea of 'vote as we want you to or lose your job' not an example of harassing behavior on the part of an employer?

Because there's a difference between threatening individuals who vote a certain way and warning of broader consequences to the election of a particular candidate. I absolutely don't think Siegel's letter is harassing, though it's certainly obnoxious.
posted by eugenen at 5:06 PM on October 27, 2012


Here's an instance of employee intimidation, admitted to openly in the newspaper,

Jesus. _Of course_ the writer would sign off a letter like that asking "who is john galt". Of course. How could it be any other way?
posted by mhoye at 5:07 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you imagine the PR fiasco that would ensue?

In the South? No, not really. When Fox News and their ilk get held up as examplars of how journalists should act by a large chunk of the population, and the mainstream press do little but venerate the wealthy and powerful, when Romney can say that 47% of the population are worthless scroungers and can be ignored and gets a poll bump as a result of it, I think you drastically over-estimate what the negative consequences would be.

This is a fantasy for people who like to say things like "American capitalism is the new serfdom."

When you go to work in an at-will state, your company owns you. You can be fired for anything, from what you eat, say, wear or do. Regardless of whether it's at work, or in the privacy of your own home. Your workplace protections are pretty much nil unless you happen to be explictly fired for being a member of a protected class (i.e black), and even then winning a court case over it will be very long and very expensive.

That's why american capitalism is modern serfdom. Being able to be legally fired for not going to a political rally for the right candidate, or voting the wrong way is merely an example.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2012 [32 favorites]


The so-called "Right to work" states are psychotic, yes.
posted by kafziel at 5:41 PM on October 27, 2012


What the hell America? This is really making it hard for everyone to see you as a shining beacon of democracy.
posted by arcticseal at 5:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, and the best part for me is seeing more than a third, almost two fifths, of the country lining up behind the people who do this time and time again. Its a joke, right? A joke being played on the history nerds by those awful, incompetent, corrupt clique-leaders who went on to become the nations power players?

Right?
posted by Slackermagee at 5:49 PM on October 27, 2012


The so-called "Right to work" states are psychotic, yes.
posted by kafziel at 8:41 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


Nitpick: "Right to work" is not the same as "employment at will." Right to work means that you cannot be compelled to join a labor union as a condition of employment, whereas employment at will means that either the employer or employee are free to end their relationship with the other party at any time and for (almost) any reason (or no reason), absent a contract saying otherwise.

Yes, the conflation of those two terms makes me a little crazy.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:54 PM on October 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Interesting factoid: In the USA, secret ballots are often called "Australian ballots":
1903 A. B. Hart Actual government as applied under American conditions p. 74
The so-called Australian ballot system, under which all the candidates appear upon one ballot, prepared and distributed by the state, and the voter indicates on the ballot his choice of candidates.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:55 PM on October 27, 2012


This is really making it hard for everyone to see you as a shining beacon of democracy.

Um. You know the only people left in the world who still do that are untravelled Americans, right?
posted by mhoye at 6:20 PM on October 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


oneswellfoop: It must be noted that if the employees vote for the guy their bosses want and he still loses, they lose their jobs anyway.
When I was in middle school fifteen years ago, we had a great principal who was fair, well-liked, and looked like Grandpa Munster. One of the perks he gave us was a 10 minute break between 6th and 7th periods where students bought drinks and snacks from a concession stand in the gymnasium. We gathered into cliques at specific spots and socialized before the last class of the day.

He retired at the end of my first year, and the assistant principal was promoted to principal. He immediately took away our break, stating that the break was something to be earned, and that the entire school should encourage good behavior from our peers, get great test scores, and the like to get our break back.

Kids were still violent. One even brought a gun to school. I have no idea about any improvement in test scores. It was a strange thing to be punished without cause or redemption. We never got our break back.
posted by chinesefood at 6:20 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting factoid: In the USA, secret ballots are often called "Australian ballots":

If by "often" you mean "never ever even once by anyone except in that Wikipedia article," then yes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anecdotally - and it depresses me too much to track down the story to see if it's true - I've heard of an employer hiring a pollster to call his employees under the guise of 'election polling' - and have the employees directly asked: "Who do you intend to vote for?"
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:44 PM on October 27, 2012


...given a pre-marked ballot to submit, and had to bring back the blank one they were given, so that it can be pre-marked and given to someone else, repeating the cycle.

Ah-ha! I wondered why our election officials initial the paper ballot just before handing it to us, then verify the initials before giving it to us to drop in the slot. Elections Canada FTW.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because there's a difference between threatening individuals who vote a certain way and warning of broader consequences to the election of a particular candidate.

Yeah... you know that a nice job you got there Buddy. Shame if something happened to it.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 6:51 PM on October 27, 2012


They don't have to force how you vote - They just have to force you to not talk about the non-preferred candidate or question the preferred one. Since everybody's frantic and punch drunk from working 40+X hours to cover for the people they 'downsized' last cycle, you'd have to make a strong effort to actually do any research (Not at work, of course.) - Well, in a total vacuum of facts, some of the less ridiculous stuff starts to almost sound reasonable... I mean, who doesn't want a 20% tax cut? And didn't you hear how Obama lied his ass off in the last debate? Guy must be desperate... And he's got NO plan to fix the economy, just more of the same. GAAAAAH! (Sorry.)
posted by Orb2069 at 6:53 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


We never got our break back.

You never, ever get good things back once they're taken away. No matter how reasonable the excuse, once an authority figure takes something away, it is never coming back. Just like how they never replace people who leave unless it is literally impossible to shove their work on the remaining people, and that usually is only a problem four or five people into the rats abandoning the sinking ship cycle.
posted by winna at 6:57 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well I just early voted today. The elderly attendant conveniently showed me how to use the election machines by pressing "neither of the above" on my actual ballot for me in the presidential election which I them immediately changed to my preferred choice. How very convenient.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 6:58 PM on October 27, 2012


You guys still have secret ballots, right?

Yes.

However, who we give money is tracked (opensecrets.org etc.) and some companies are required to track contributions as a matter of law. That is, if your company does business with municipal governments, say, providing financial services to the municipalities, you may be required to disclose contributions, showing how employees are supporting candidates. I'm not a lawyer, but I think it depends on state law.

I believe a company could restrict you from supporting a candidate (not control of how you vote, but your contributions) if they felt your support for a politician might create a conflict of interest. I think you could see where it makes sense, as it keeps municipal business in the light. But at the same time if you are a relatively non-influential employee and you want to support some unconventional political idea (Yes. I know the rent is too damn high) you have to be aware your employer is monitoring this activity and may not think your politics reflect well on the company, which might stump your career, or worse.
posted by relish at 7:14 PM on October 27, 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 7:18 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing is, back in the 70's about forty years ago it was considered exceedingly impolite to even ask who you had voted for. A company compelling it's employees to vote a certain way would have very likely been compared to some form of communism and the company would have been shamed out of the practice (not to mention what would have happened if the company had been unionized). So here we are now, almost a half century later in the age of corrupted capitalism, and corporations are people, they have rights of free speech and we are all actually having a discussion whether it's reasonable for them to be able to hold your job over your head if you don't vote a certain way. Seriously. A Discussion. Forty years ago there would have been damn little discussion.

When your employer can hold your job at ransom for your vote that is not Democracy, it's fascism.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 7:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


when Romney can say that 47% of the population are worthless scroungers and can be ignored and gets a poll bump as a result of it

In fact, Romney started losing ground in the polls after those remarks were revealed in the middle of September, and didn't start gaining again until after the first debate.
posted by escabeche at 7:24 PM on October 27, 2012


Conservative logic: It should be illegal to force employees to join a union as condition of employment at a given company. It should not be illegal to force employees to support a given candidate or political position as a condition of employment at a given company.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:25 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sheldon Adelson Pressures Casino Workers With Pro-Romney Voter 'Guide'

I guess he just isn't interested in Sarah Silverman's proposition.
posted by homunculus at 7:25 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bill Moyers Essay: When Bosses Push Their Politics

Moyers & Company: Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland on the One Percent’s Power and Privileges
posted by homunculus at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2012


The reason we once had property requirements for voting was the near-certainty that anyone without some level of wealth would be under the thrall of his boss or landlord, and would vote for his master, rather than for himself.

Way to take us back to the 18th century, Messrs Koch.
posted by ocschwar at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Annals of Democracy: Rock, Paper, Scissors
On the morning of November 2, 1859—Election Day—George Kyle, a merchant with the Baltimore firm of Dinsmore & Kyle, left his house with a bundle of ballots tucked under his arm. Kyle was a Democrat. As he neared the polls in the city’s Fifteenth Ward, which was heavily dominated by the American Party, a ruffian tried to snatch his ballots. Kyle dodged and wheeled, and heard a cry: his brother, just behind him, had been struck. Next, someone clobbered Kyle, who drew a knife, but didn’t have a chance to use it. “I felt a pistol put to my head,” he said. Grazed by a bullet, he fell. When he rose, he drew his own pistol, hidden in his pocket. He spied his brother lying in the street. Someone else fired a shot, hitting Kyle in the arm. A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds. The Democratic candidate for Congress, William Harrison, lost to the American Party’s Henry Winter Davis. Three months later, when the House of Representatives convened hearings into the election, whose result Harrison contested, Davis’s victory was upheld on the ground that any “man of ordinary courage” could have made his way to the polls. [my emphasis]
A rather good article from the New Yorker describing democracy in the USA before the "Australian Ballot" was introduced. What a sad thing it is that the brutish and ignorant are unaware of their debt to the shining democracy of the south.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:02 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "Ah-ha! I wondered why our election officials initial the paper ballot just before handing it to us, then verify the initials before giving it to us to drop in the slot. Elections Canada FTW."

Here in retrograde Oklahoma, they won't let you walk off with a ballot. Every ballot that is handed out must be accounted for in that precinct. It's a hassle to get one cancelled and a new one issued if you mark it wrongly.
posted by wierdo at 12:22 AM on October 28, 2012


1991 I'm working downtown Houston, First Interstate Bank (remember them?), George Bush Sr. was coming through town to the convention center, his line of limos going right past our location. Seems that all of us -- everyone working in the bank, if it was possible for them to get away -- it was strongly *suggested* that all of us get down on that street level and wave and cheer as that dope went past.

It was ridiculous but I sure did do it -- I didn't cheer or wave but I was on the sidewalk, watching the limos roll past. I tried to look at the bright side, how cool it'd be if his car got hit by a garbage truck and I got to see it, live -- that would have so rocked. No such luck though, dang it.

Anyways, the entire data processing team was out there, other than a skeleton staff, operators and also check processing personnel, those machines just don't stop -- it was such a waste of time and energy. I only knew our team -- the data processing shop -- and knew were were there in force, I didn't know many people outside the data center so I can't say for positive how many of the people out there were from the bank, but I'd bet that there were a lot of us.

It was like we were in kindergarten "Okay, now eat your cookies; Okay, now put your head down on your desk for nap-time; Okay, now it's time for show and tell; Okay, now it's time to go out and watch some hemorrhoid drive by."

Jeffie and I spent the time clowning around, we left our desks early and came back last, bitterly making fun of the whole damn thing the whole damn time. But we were on the street.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:27 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems the "We'll drive the country over the fiscal cliff and fire everybody and crash the economy" is the conservative equivalent to the liberal "I'm moving to Canada."

It's a bit of a hollow threat given that they already did that four or five years ago.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:36 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Perhaps I'm an outlier, but when I hear "if this guy wins, I will have to fire you all", I just think that they're resorting to threats because they care more about politics (or race) than running their business, and so I should be looking for a new job where the boss cares about the business most of all. It also tells me they have no legitimate case to present about their guy being the better candidate, making me even less likely to vote for him. So counterproductive, really.
posted by davejay at 12:14 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, I think that would be the conclusion employees should come to, also that their employer has contempt for them and doesn't think they can do better.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2012


also that their employer has contempt for them and doesn't think they can do better.

Ah yes, that, too.
posted by davejay at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Henry W. Davis grew up to be a Radical Republican, so at least there was that. Still appalling, of course.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:39 PM on October 28, 2012


About 25-30 years ago, I had a boss who was a dyed in the wool, hard core Republican and made no bones about it. But he also had enough respect for our political traditions that he issued a standing invitation to lunch on him the day after election day, and all we had to do was bring the little ballot stubs we got after we voted. He knew damned well (because none of us were shy about discussing our views) that over half of the people at his lunch voted in opposition to his views. But that wasn't as important to him as it was that we voted, period.

I can't even imagine that kind of civility in our political discourse today. Sometimes it's hard to believe that there was actually a time - in my lifetime, no less - that it ever existed.
posted by zoog at 1:41 PM on October 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


This sort of thing is why I'll never, ever donate money to a political campaign of any kind (even if I find a candidate I actually like and trust). Personal information about all donors is compiled into publicly searchable databases, and my boss or my next boss might be an asshole like the guy in the link.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:40 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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