Just a week after Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel wrote a partially plagiarized letter threatening to fire employees if they voted for Obama, now comes news that Koch Industries is taking a similar approach by using its position as a major employer to influence elections. According to an In These Times report, the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific sent a packet to its 45,000 employees earlier his month. The packet included a cover letter from Koch Industries President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson which reads, in part:
While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.
If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.
In other words, if you vote for Obama or other Democrats, you might lose your job. Of course, Robertson denies that's what he meant. And all that threatening stuff he just wrote about what will happen if you vote for the wrong candidate? He didn't really mean that either.
"We believe any decision about which candidates to support is-as always-yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation."
He also wrote: "At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee."
The list sent to workers in Oregon? All 14 politicians mentioned were Republican.
In These Times reports the package adds to an already existing culture of fear at Koch. There's a social media policy that states, in part, "Even if your social media conduct is outside of the workplace and/or non-work related, it must not reflect negatively on GP's reputation, its products, or its brands." Many have experienced the rule as a form of political censorship.
In August, Portland-based Georgia Pacific worker Travis McKinney, a member of the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific (an affiliate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union), learned about the social media policy the hard way during his yearly evaluation.
When McKinney applied for a foreman job at the plant in May, he says, his supervisor informed him that a higher-up said he wouldn't get the job because he was "too political." "They said I should be aware of what I am posting online," says McKinney. A subsequent August evaluation of McKinney noted that "supervisors feel Travis gets caught up in the politics of the day which can be distraction."
In These Times also reports that Georgia Pacific companies must seek supervisor-approval before running for local office or serving on the boards of non-profits.
[Images via Getty]