The Stand

Koch brothers demonstrate why we need Worker Privacy Act

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Your least favorite right-wing billionaires, David and Charles Koch (rhymes with “coke,” to the dismay of double-entendre fans) of Kansas, have become poster brothers for yet another corporate abuse that should be made illegal: coercing employees into voting for the bosses’ favored candidates.

The Nation has obtained and published a 14-page Koch Industries election “packet” mailed to employees right before last November’s election. It tells employees who they should vote for and warns them of the consequences to their families, their jobs and their country if they vote “wrong.” It was a similar story in2008, when Walmart warned its employees of the dangers of voting for Barack Obama or other Democrats, including (shudder) that they would make it easier to form unions.

As the Supreme Court continues to remove restrictions on corporate “free speech,” experts say employers likely will send out more of this political propaganda in 2012. But at the same time, they can bar their employees’ unions from even handing out a list of endorsed candidates on the job.

Says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone:

If a union wanted to hand out political materials in the workplace not directly relevant to the workers’ interests—such as providing a list of candidates to support in the elections—the employer has the right to ban that material. They could even prohibit its distribution on lunch breaks or after shifts, because by law it’s the company’s private property.

In 2009, the Washington State Legislature considered legislation called the Worker Privacy Act that would have allowed workers to choose whether to participate in employer communication on issues of individual conscience, including politics, religion, unionization, and charitable giving. Under the proposal, employers would not be restricted from having meetings or sending propaganda like the Koch brothers distributed—thus preserving their “free speech”—but employees would be allowed to opt-out. It would be illegal for the employer to punish or harass any employee who chooses to opt out and keep his or her private decisions private.

The Worker Privacy Act had 47 sponsors in the State House, 21 sponsors in the State Senate, and plenty of votes to pass. But alas, it suffered an ignominious death involving an inadvertent email and a disturbing (but timely!) overreaction.

For more information on the Koch brothers’ latest affront: see “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch.”

(This posting was adapted from a report that first appeared at AFL-CIO Now.)

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Posted by on Apr 25 2011. Filed under NATIONAL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “Koch brothers demonstrate why we need Worker Privacy Act”

  1. Oblio

    Actually I am glad this privacy act was not enacted. It is poorly structured and if it had passed, it would KILL THE ISSUE and the proper form of the law would never be enacted.

    If this were law, the employer would have a working list of opt outs, and that list would be in the top drawer for lay offs.

    We need our privacy as workers to be respected and protected. As such, we need a law that makes it ILLEGAL, A JAILED OFFENSE WITH HEAVY FINES TOO, To hold political meetings, to send political emails or messages to the employees, or to talk about politics in any form in company meetings where employees are in attendance.

    The bar against political speech in the workplace should hold tight to protect the workers.

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