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Voting For the Boss

There’s the labor law piece of it, which means that employers have a lot of latitude to change working conditions and fire workers for pretty much any reason. Private-sector workers lack any federal free-speech protections when it comes to politics. There are certain protections afforded to workers under the National Labor Relations Act, which allows even nonunionized workers to communicate about improving conditions on the job, but aside from that, employers have the ability to fire workers for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

The campaign finance piece is also relevant. The Federal Elections Contributions Act, which was passed in the 1970s, said that companies could solicit workers for contributions. But it set pretty strict limits on how they could make those solicitations — for instance you were only allowed to communicate with your managerial employees, not rank-and-file workers.

But with Citizens United, the Supreme Court made it possible for companies to contribute to campaigns outside of their Political Action Committees, meaning they could spend from their own treasuries on elections so long as they weren’t coordinating with individual candidates or parties. That’s relevant for the activities that I’m talking about, because in the eyes of the law employee time and effort are now company resources that can be redirected toward partisan aims.

So coupled with the lax labor law, employers are in a situation where they can really ask a lot of workers, and potentially even reprimand or fire them — or on the flip side, reward them — for political participation on the job.

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