Monday, August 27, 2012
Can Employees Be Forced To Campaign ?
At least, that's the view of the three Republican members of the Federal Election Commission. In a case involving a union (the United Public Workers union), those three FEC members ruled that it was permissible for that union to force their employees to campaign for a certain candidate -- even if those employees did not personally like or support that candidate. And they said that ruling would be equally applicable to corporations. They seemed to think this insane decision was required by the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, since Congress had not addressed the issue specifically, and said:
UPW’s independent use of its paid workforce to campaign for a federal candidate post-Citizen’s United was not contemplated by Congress and, consequently, is not prohibited by either the Act or Commission regulations…. Requiring employees to work on independent expenditures for either the union or a non-connected political committee is not a violation of the Act or Commission regulations.
I think they have misread both the intent and reach of the Supreme Court decision. That decision was about money in elections, and who could spend that money and how much. I don't think the court ever meant to curb the right of employees to support or not support any candidate or party. This seems to me to be a gross violation of free speech rights. Can you imagine your union requiring you to campaign for Obama, or your corporate boss requiring you to campaign for Romney? It's just wrong!
I am a big supporter of unions. I believe they are the working man's best chance to achieve fairness, safety, and economic justice in the workplace. But they should never have the right to force employees to support a candidate they don't like (or any candidate at all for that matter) -- and no corporation should have that right either. In a free country, every person (regardless of who they work for) should have the right to make their own political decisions -- and they should never be forced to campaign for any candidate or party (or even participate in the electoral process at all) if they don't want to. Fortunately, the three Democratic members of the FEC disagreed with the decision. This is what they said:
After Citizens United, UPW had every right to expressly advocate for its chosen candidate and against her opponent. Nothing in Citizens United suggests, however, that the Court intended to expand the rights of corporations and unions at the expense of their employees’ longstanding rights to be free from coercion and to express or to decline to express their own political views.
They are right. The workplace is the wrong place for any kind of election campaigning, especially when it is forced on an employee. The Supreme Court decision gave corporations and unions the right to support any candidate they want, but it did not give them the right to use their employees as campaign lackeys. That is anathema in a free country.