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Employers and Employees: Contemporary Liberalism and Class Warfare

Last June, Mitt Romney conducted a conference call with a group of small business owners, in the course of which he urged his listeners to talk to their employees about how political decisions can affect their companies:

I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.

That seems like sensible advice, based on the presumption that most employees identify their interests with those of their employer–if my employer grows and prospers, so, in all likelihood, will I; whereas, if my employer is driven out of business it will be bad for me. But not everyone takes such a common-sense view. Thus, a few days ago a publication called In These Times–somewhat ironically, a part of the George Soros empire–attacked Romney for the comments quoted above:

In a June 6, 2012 conference call posted on the anti-union National Federation of Independent Business’s website, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney instructed employers to tell their employees how to vote in the upcoming election.

But of course, employers can’t “tell their employees how to vote.” Employees can vote however they want; we have a secret ballot in all state and federal elections. (The only people who are trying to abolish the secret ballot are labor unions, via card check legislation which will allow unions to threaten and intimidate employees to vote for union representation when they do not want to do so.) Employers can only explain how certain policies would help or hurt their economic prospects.

The writer of the In These Times piece went on to make a point that is, actually, correct:

In the June call, Romney went on to reassure his audience that it is perfectly legal for them to talk to their employees about how to vote:

Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.

He’s correct that such speech is now legal for the first time ever, thanks to the Citizen United ruling, which overturned previous Federal Election Commission laws that prohibited employers from political campaigning among employees.

Prior to Citizens United, companies could communicate with salaried employees about politics, but not hourly employees. While the Citizens United decision says not a word on the topic, it is generally believed that the First Amendment principles enunciated in that case imply that companies can communicate with their hourly employees as they can with members of the general public. So, since 2010, more companies have tried to explain to employees how various political outcomes could impact their businesses, and their employees’ jobs.

Citizens United leveled the playing field, to some degree, between management and labor. Labor unions have always been able to tell their members how to vote. They produce sample ballots, demand that members march in parades or go door to door on behalf of Democratic candidates, and so on. Not only that, unions are able to extract money from their members against their will and use that money to support candidates with whom many of their members do not agree. This is a scandal, but it has been an important feature of American politics for generations. In fact, when one talks about special interest money, unions predominate to the point where it is hardly worth while to mention anyone else. Being able to extract money by force does wonders for the coffers.

What accounted for the extraordinary imbalance between labor and management that existed prior to Citizens United? There is only one explanation: federal law presumed a more or less Marxist view of the world, in which the interests of hourly workers and managers are inevitably opposed, whereas the interests of all pipe fitters, auto workers, or whatever, are always aligned, whether the workers in question think so or not. But that world view is silly. Ford’s auto workers are in competition with auto workers who work for Toyota. They have a far stronger mutual interest with Ford’s management in the success of Ford Motor Company than they have with auto workers employed by competing companies.

This is why Romney’s advice to small business owners made sense. Employees should want to know, and most undoubtedly do want to know, how the positions taken by various political candidates would impact their jobs. Employers can help them to understand this, so their input can be highly valuable. Liberals fear such communication, not because employers will “tell their employees how to vote”–they can’t do that–but rather because, if workers fully appreciate how devastating liberal policies are to the economy, they will vote for conservatives, and thereby help themselves and their families to prosper.

Any time a political faction wants to suppress free speech, we should be suspicious of its motives. That maxim applies here: if employees don’t find their employers’ input persuasive, they are entirely free to reject it, just as they can tune out a political ad on television. Liberals fear free speech by employers because they know that in many instances, employees will want to hear it, and will find it persuasive because it is true.

More to come on this topic tomorrow.

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