In the past few weeks, there’s been a flurry of articles about employers coercing or intimidating workers to vote for their preferred candidates (usually Republican). This is not a new topic on this blog, but the brazenness of these efforts is beginning to get a fair amount of traction elsewhere (in part because of the election).
Anyway, here’s a quick roundup:
1. Alec McGillis kicked off the most recent round of stories with this report in The New Republic on Murray Energy’s forcing its workers to support Romney. (Though I had already commented on this story back in August, McGillis has a lot of new details.)
2. Mike Elk then broke the story, in In These Times, of the Koch brothers trying to get their workers to vote for the right candidate. (In case you missed Gordon Lafer’s followup on the hypocrisy of the Kochs, check this out.)
3. Mike then followed up—again, in In These Times—his piece with a report on Romney’s own role in encouraging this kind of behavior.
Then there was a bunch of thoughtful analyses of what all of this means…
5. In Salon, Josh Eidelson placed it in some historical context (with some quotes from me).
6. In The New Republic, McGillis speculated that it reveals how vulnerable employers now feel.
7. At Gawker, the inimitable Mobuto Seko Seko—no, not that one—did what only he can do, which includes, in what may be a first, citing a Crooked Timber post at Gawker (the one I wrote with Chris Bertram and Alex Gourevitch last summer.)
8. And last weekend, Chris Hayes had a lengthy roundtable on the issue (though I think most of the panelists, especially Josh Barro, got the free speech implications of the issue almost completely backward.)
But if you really want to understand what this all means, and why it happens, you should buy my first book Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Part II—”Fear, American Style”—explains not only how it is that a liberal democracy can tolerate all this employer intimidation and coercion, but why and how it actually encourages, even requires, it. You also get to see one my favorite lines from Hart Crane’s “To Brooklyn Bridge” —”How could mere toil align thy choiring strings?”—put in the service of political analysis: to suggest how central work and the workplace are to the organization, coordination, and execution of political repression in America.
Update (11 pm)
For some idiotic reason, I forgot this excellent piece from Mark Ames on the same topic. I can’t think of anyone in the media who has devoted as much attention to this issue, throughout the years, both as a reporter and as an analyst. Mark was also one of the very few, from the very beginning, to take notice of my work on this issue, and he’s continually made sure to keep it right there in the spotlight.
Update (11:05 pm)
Steven Sherman, a FB friend, reminds me of this piece in Business Week, just one of several, on David Siegel’s instructions to his employees.
Update (11:07 pm)
Bill Moyers is on it!