Mickey D’s has added a new item to its menu: coercive political pamphlets.
Employees of a McDonald’s franchise in Ohio received a letter along with their most recent paycheck, stating that “if the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits … if others are elected, we will not.”
The letter went on to endorse candidates that have promised to lower minimum wages and get rid of 90% of regulations on business (that incidentally protect workers’ rights).
Here’s where it gets scary. Yes, this particular instance was very, very illegal. Ohio election law states that corporations can’t do the following:
“print or authorize to be print … or post or exhibit in the establishment or anywhere in or about the establishment … handbills containing any threat, notice, or information that if any particular candidate is elected or defeated, work in the establishment will cease in whole or in part, or other threats expressed or implied, intended to influence the political opinions or votes of … its employees.”
The owner of the franchise, Paul Siegfried has since apologized publicly and retracted the statement, saying, “it was never my intention to offend anyone.” (Of course, not buddy, your intention was to influence the way your employees were going to vote. Nobody said you were being rude.)
But here’s the rub: this is neither an isolated incident nor is it a wholly illegal one, in some cases. In the landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC—a decision that President Obama denounced—the Supreme Court essentially gave corporations the go-ahead to spend as much money as they want to advocate for political candidates as long as they don’t coordinate with those candidates.
Michael J. Wilson, director of Americans for Democratic Action, points out that employers already make a habit of flexing their financial muscle over their employees when it comes to union issues. By calling mandatory meetings in which workers are persuaded (or gently threatened) to vote against unionization.
The union is not allowed to attend and has no comparable ability to tell workers the other side. Management closely monitors who speaks, who asks questions, and who exhibits pro-union sensibilities for later retribution.
This tactic is extremely effective. Even though workers in unionized companies make more money, have better benefits, and are protected from arbitrary termination, in about half of the elections the majority of workers vote against having a union. What makes this even more “impressive” is that before the election is held, in most instances a majority of employees have signed cards expressing a desire for a union.
While Wilson claims that this tactic has yet to be used for political endeavors, it’s not for lack of trying. Walmart got into trouble back in 2008 for pressuring employees into voting for McCain, which likely meant that somebody’s corporate lawyers were on vacation. Either that, or potential punishment wasn’t enough of a deterrent.
So what does this mean for us? Well first, get to the voting booths. (Our hope is that you’re not being told who to vote for between batches of fries.) As for what this means for our country and our political system? That’s something you should tell us below.
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