A flurry of emails from CEOs telling workers how to vote in November has raised a troubling question: Can a company legally tell workers how to vote? For the most part, the answer is yes. Election regulators and corporate lawyers say no federal election law specifically prevents employers from telling workers they could lose their jobs if they vote for a certain candidate. The issue has come into public view after Westgate CEO David Siegel sent an email to his 7,000 workers saying that if President Obama is elected “I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.” The news was followed with a missive from the Koch brothers to their 45,000 workers at Georgia Pacific that they could “suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills” if they voted for candidates not supported by Koch-owned companies or its political fund-raising arm. According to In These Times, the “approved” list of candidates started with Mitt Romney and didn’t include any Democrats.
Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Sofware, also sent employees an email saying, “If the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. … I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.” Siegel said he was educating, not threatening, his workers. The Koch brothers said the information sent to workers was “purely intended to be considered among all the other information employees may be reading or receiving as an informed voter. We make it clear that any decision about which candidates to support belongs solely to our employees based on the factors that are most important to them, and this is in no way an attempt to ‘intimidate’ employees. Any such claim to the contrary is completely untrue.”