We've talked a bit lately about business leaders using heavy-handed election tactics, pressuring their employees to support Mitt Romney, apparently at the candidate's behest. A new example out of Wisconsin is one of the more striking cases to date.
Mike White, the chairman and owner of Rite-Hite, a major Milwaukee manufacturer of industrial equipment, told employees in an email this week that all employees "should understand the personal consequences to them of having our tax rates increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama's future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government."
The email stunned some employees. One employee said he felt threatened by the email. "It's a good company, but for this to come out, it's absurd," the employee said.
The employee said even supervisors were surprised by the tone of the email.
White's email said he didn't intend to "prejudice any employee," but nevertheless urged them to "think carefully."
As a substantive matter, it's worth noting that Rite-Hite owner appears confused about several key policy areas. White, for example, said his workers' personal income taxes would "increase dramatically" under a second term, which is at odds with all existing tax proposals. He also makes it sound as if it's impossible for a business to thrive with top marginal rates from the 1990s.
But even putting policy accuracy aside, it continues to be unnerving to find employers issuing vague threats about "personal consequences" to their employees. It is, as best as I can tell, legal, but the pressure and coercion from Romney allies -- who appear to be following Romney's own instructions -- is a bit much.
As The Atlantic's Adam Clark Estes recently put it, "It's not technically illegal for employers to tell their employees how to vote. That doesn't mean that it's ethical or understandable or even acceptable to connect people's livelihoods with their political beliefs. There's a fine line between an employer telling an employee, 'Vote Romney!' and a boss telling a subordinate, 'Vote Romney, or else!' At least, in the eyes of the inevitably subordinate employees there's not."