Citizens Coerced: A Legislative Fix for Workplace Political Intimidation Post-Citizens United
12 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 1, 2016
This essay examines the growing threat of workplace political coercion, or when employers attempt to threaten or coerce their workers into supporting firm-favored issues, policies, or political candidates. We describe, for the first time, the prevalence of such coercion, and propose a relatively straightforward legislative fix that would protect private-sector workers from the risk of political intimidation.
This essay responds to an earlier piece published by Professor Secunda in the YLJ Forum that described how the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened up the possibility for employers to hold mandatory “captive audience” meetings for workers, in which managers could endorse candidates for elected office. Managers, Secunda noted, could discipline workers who refused to participate in such firm-sponsored partisan activities. Accordingly, Secunda recommended federal legislation that would ban the use of mandatory political meetings in the private sector.
At the time that Secunda’s essay was published, however, we lacked any systematic evidence of the prevalence or characteristics of employer political coercion in the American workforce, and so his recommendations could not be tailored to the specifics of employer political recruitment. New survey research from an ongoing academic project from Mr. Hertel-Fernandez, however, has provided precisely that information, documenting the extent to which workers have experienced political coercion from their employers. Our present essay summarizes that survey evidence, using the empirical data to craft a bi-partisan policy proposal that would address employer political coercion in the private sector by adding political opinions and beliefs to the list of protected classes in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lastly, we draw on survey research to describe why this proposal could attract bipartisan political support.
Keywords: political coercion, political affiliation, political belief, Citizens United, 2016 election, Title VII, employee mobilization
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