Corporations influence politics, but not in the way you think you do

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I would note that the article indicates that only 5% of the workers surveyed reported threats to their employment:

(20% of 25% is 5% of the whole.)

While a bit less horrible, that’s certainly enough to swing a vote.


It seems a bit sensationalist to suggest that any of this means that straight up purchasing a candidate’s way to the top, paying for favors or economic blackmail/hostage holding is any less of a problem than anyone thought. What in these findngs suppports that conclusion?


You think something illegal and unethical affecting millions isn’t a problem if it’s not solely responsible for swinging a particular vote?


are you implying that unless an employee is threatened, there is no issue here to be concerned about?


I think if it had little to no effect that it would contradict the thrust of the lede and opening paragraph.

I’m not sure why you singled out a quote from the Corey Robin article for this question; I suppose you would have to ask them.

(I’ve reformatted my previous post to hopefully clarify.)

What in the ever-loving FUCK?


Here’s a quote directly from Hertel-Fernandez’s paper:

… somewhere between 3% and 10% of all U.S. employees – about 4 to 14 million Americans – are experiencing intimidating forms of political contact at work.

These numbers don’t support BoingBoing’s false dichotomy. A handful of lobbyists writing legislation probably still wield more legislative power than the executives wielding some portion of the 14 million votes at play here.

The Murray Energy example is interesting. Government is moving to reduce our nation’s dependence on coal. As the CEO of a coal company, telling your employees their jobs are threatened by certain elected officials is both coercive and truthful.

Unions also engage in this sort of coercive behavior. And in the example above, UMWA and Murray Energy might find that they share a common cause. Like so: UMWA Statement Regarding Layoffs at Murray Energy

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I didn’t see daemon23’s first comment before he or she edited it. However, the Corey Robin article Cory linked to in the OP says:

Of the more than 1,000 workers Hertel-Fernandez surveyed, 25 percent report being contacted by their employers about politics. Of those, he shows in his paper, 20 percent received threats: if they didn’t adopt the right political positions or engage in the prescribed political behavior, they’d lose their jobs, have their wages or hours cut, or see their workplaces closed.

Contacting an employee about how they’ll vote is arguably unethical (I would tend to say it is anyway). Threatening an employee to coerce a vote is clearly unethical. If it was reported that 25% of a sample were maimed and 5% of a sample were killed, it wouldn’t make the maiming and killing any less evil.

Nonetheless, 20% of 25% does not equal 20% of the whole sample. Anyone who reads the OP without reading the source article is getting a skewed statistic. Anyone who reads both is going to see the discrepancy and wonder why Cory’s post misquoted the article’s research results. I believe it’s an honest and understandable mistake caused by quick reading because Cory, while unflinching in sharing strong opinions, does not, in my experience, make a habit of skewing statistics. Moreover, he’s more than smart enough o understand that his readers are smart enough to spot such discrepancies.


Moreover, any uncoerced votes that would have gone the opposite way now technically count double. -1 for the team who lost a voter due to coercion and +1 for the team doing the coercion.
Edit: Rather than the vote just not being made at all due to it being “killed”

But does any of this really matter when the SCOTUS can overrule popular vote anyway and just hand our results (at least in the case of the presidency)?

Pretty bullshit situation overall.

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Without economic democracy, there’s no political democracy.



So, when did we eliminate secret ballots in this country?


That may be so, but it’s an outlier. I read (well-documented) stories of small-business employees being told that unless Romney repeals Obamacare, the boss will be forced to cut payroll, hint hint. At least some of those same businesses were discovered two years later to have grown in size and profitability.

So the threats aren’t always true at all. Republican doctrine is that it’s impossible for the state to do anything for the workers, because giving them any power or benefit at all will force massive layoffs. Those layoffs never materialize - not when Social Security was implemented, nor Medicare, nor minimum wage, nor the Affordable Care Act.

It’s true that there are communities that are dependent on mining or other extractive industries. It’s also a universal pattern that those workers are the most ruthlessly exploited, with the worst safety records in the nation. If the mines were forced to be safe, you see, the workers who don’t die might get laid off. That’s a false economy. It would be interesting to compare those robber barons to the profitability of an energy company that was 100% compliant with the law; unfortunately there isn’t one. Some powerful people in Washington work hard to make sure there aren’t enough inspectors to come around more than once a decade, and the fines are nice and easy.


The Salon article links to this article, which addresses this very point:

An employee whose boss tells them how to vote may still ignore this advice in the privacy of a voting booth. What they won’t do, however, is display a button or bumper sticker, write a letter to the editor, or be seen attending a rally of the opposing party. This strikes at the very heart of democracy. Elections are only “free and fair” if voters are free to speak out, write in, and publicly support the candidate of their choice, without fear for their livelihoods.


Yeah, according to that article they’re doing more than just “telling”. Even if Murray Energy is acting to provide job security for its employees in the long term that still doesn’t excuse its methods.

I wouldn’t say that employee coercion is more influential than lobbying (in terms of determining political outcomes), but it’s certainly less ethical.

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Yeah, things were bound to come to a pretty pass once the Courts became the only branch of government capable of reaching a decision on anything.

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I agree with you on this. I zero’d in very narrowly on a particular scenario. Just about everything else about this is bad, bad, bad.

A hypothetical situation where this would work the other way: Suppose I own a company that performs water quality testing on homes near hydraulic fracturing sites in Texas. The Republican dominated Texas legislature might move to make it difficult or impossible for my company to continue doing this. If I tell my employees, “Vote Democrat or we’re all out of a job,” I wouldn’t be lying. It might give my employees a desperate feeling of duress, but I’m not even sure it’s coercive.

I guess the difference is between, “Here’s how we’re threatened,” and “Here’s how I’m threatening you.” It’s a pretty fine line.

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I am curious if that 25% was mostly Union jobs. I have never personally heard anyone I work for talk about politics in any sort of official capacity. Nothing beyond “the government sucks” “so-and-so is an idiot” grumbling. This includes working 5 years a walmart, but they were a kinder, gentler behemoth back then. I can’t imagine any work force where that is even appropriate for them to talk about politics in an official capacity. but maybe if I worked in an industry threatened by a certain politician I would.

On the other hand, I have heard stories from Union member who are told who the Union supports. Though many times the members don’t have the same leanings as their bosses.

Yes it is. Oddly, we never hear WalMart telling its employees to vote for whoever extends unemployment and food stamps, or they’ll have to start layoffs…

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