ELECTION EXTORTION Four years ago, companies were banned from telling their employees how to vote. Today they can, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.
Citizens United, a non-profit corporation, wanted to advertise a film critical of Hillary Clinton during television broadcasts, which the Federal Elections Commission blocked because the McCain–Feingold Act outlawed corporations and unions from electioneering. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
The ruling also overturned laws banning employers from discussing political opinions with their employees—something of which the GOP and Mitt Romney have taken full advantage. Last June, the Republican presidential candidate told employers, at the National Federation of Independent Business, over a conference call to talk with their employers about which candidate is best for their business.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched its Vote for Jobs 2012 campaign encouraging businesses to distribute political ads in the payroll envelopes of their employees. The inserts, which cost 20-cents apiece and are available in Spanish, have images of pick up trucks, little league baseball teams and work belts.
David Siegel, the founder and chief executive of Florida-based Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned timeshare company in the world, got the message. He sent a memo to his 7,000 employees that told them that another four years under President Obama would put their jobs at risk.
Pensacola is not exempt. Our newspaper received a call from an employee of the Taco Bell in Warrington who said she had gotten an insert with her paycheck that told her that her hours might possibly be reduced if the Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t repealed, one of Romney’s top campaign promises.
The owner, Southeast QSR, LLC, which owns 58 Taco Bell franchises in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, said that the new healthcare law would cost $2,000 per employee that worked 30 hours or more. It directed the employee to the website restaurants-vote.com.
Imagine the pressure on these employees to conform to their bosses’ wishes. I wonder how many Romney bumper stickers got added to cars in the company parking lots to curry favor and bonuses.
Our political system was built on secret ballots and voting without threats and intimidation. These payroll inserts and memos from bosses are not-so-veiled threats and clearly intended to coerce employees to vote in step with their employers. This needs to stop to prevent further erosion of our democracy.