OPINION: Unbought and unbossed
I am sure Congresswoman Chisholm would not mind if we resurrected her 1972 Presidential race slogan “unbought and unbossed” as a much-needed battle cry in the fight for an unfettered, fair democratic process.
Beyond the resurgence of Klan and supremacists activity and recruitment and targeted voter suppression of minority communities reminiscent of the 1950’s and 60’s, the most troubling conduct I’ve seen this election season arises out of irresponsible Super PAC spending and the political “activism” of several CEOs and corporate presidents. These wayward “corporate leaders” have employed misleading, threatening and intimidating tactics to pressure their employees to vote for the candidates they endorse, rather than the candidates their employees choose to represent the best interests of hard working Americans– that conduct in more sensible days was illegal.
One CEO bully even required his employees to attend a political rally without compensation while, at the same time, closing down operations and suspending pay for the day. Deeply disturbing is that one of the Presidential candidates (i.e., Romney) has endorsed and encouraged this behavior, perfectly content to use coerced workers as unpaid props in his bid for the nation’s highest office.
Despite the faulty reasoning of Citizens United, this is not the freedom of speech our founders imagined. Indeed, upending the undue political influence and tyranny of royals and elites is exactly what the Revolutionary War and all of the founding documents for our nation, including the Bill of Rights, were about. The goal was to expand the freedoms of ordinary individuals and to limit the power of establishments like the monarchy and state-supported churches. Had they been alive in this era, I am most certain our founders would not have considered multinational corporate conglomerates and the corporate elite to be among the “ordinary citizens” whose freedom of speech rights needed protection. Rather, it is far more likely that such corporate powers would have been listed as part of the “establishment” that needed clear limitations on its ability to infringe the political freedom of the rest of us.
A quick read of the few letters that have made the news shows exactly why. These are bullies of the worst kind, coercing and threatening the livelihood of the very hardworking citizens who have toiled day-in and day-out to build the mansions and lifestyles of their ungrateful bosses. That is, unless the employee subjects agree to support the political candidate who has promised to give the most spoils to these spoiled kings and forget the needs and talents of the 99 percent.
This is not simply an issue of partisan politics, this is about the principles upon which our nation was founded and the democracy so many have fought and died to protect. This is not the kind of conduct that should be met by merely uttering an interjection and shaking one’s head. Everyone should be concerned about the long-term ramifications of legalizing such unfair political practices. Even if the Supreme Court got it wrong, in the revolutionary tradition of our nation’s founders, we, ordinary citizens must make it right. We, too, can exercise our freedom of speech and our freedom of spending to ensure that such conduct has consequences for the bullies who perpetuate it. And, we can reward the many good corporate “citizens” that are wise enough to respect the democratic ideals of our nation and the self-evident truths that all of us are equal and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that are simply not for sale or subject to coercion.
To that end, I have compiled below information I found about some of the CEO bullies currently in the news, and I offer two sample form letters that you are welcome to share, use and modify to express your own outrage and commitment to ensuring our Democracy remains by, for and about the people:
- Robert Murray of Murray Enterprises (OH), LLC and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation (www.ohiovalleycoal.com, 28325 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 300, Pepper Pike, OH, 101 Prosperous Place, Suite 125, Lexington, KY 40509), one of the largest independent operators of coal mines closed a coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio and suspended pay to workers for a day in order to host a rally for Mitt Romney. Murray Energy’s CEO Robert Moore snidely remarked, “Attendance was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event.” A complaint has also been filed against Mr. Murray and his company with the Federal Election Commission for violating federal campaign laws by requiring workers to give one percent of their salary to the company’s political action committee. At the time Murray’s egregious conduct appeared in the news, Murray Energy had already donated over $1 Million to Republican candidates and its PAC has donated $10,000 directly to Romney’s campaign. Such callous disregard of its workers’ rights is probably not surprising for those who have followed Murray Energy, which also denied responsibility for the collapse of its Crandall Canyon mine in 2007, killing six miners and three rescue workers, and which has pled guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act. Murray Energy provides coal to electric producers domestically and abroad. In addition to mining operations, Murray operates river, truck and rail terminals on the Ohio River, a rail loadout facility in Central Utah and diesel and mining equipment rebuild facility in West Virginia. Murray Energy’s competition includes natural gas producers and other coal-producing regions.
- Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Software Solutions (www.asg.com, 1333 3rd Ave. South, Naples, FL 34102; 239-435-2200), sent an email to his employees pressuring them not only to vote for Mitt Romney, but also to donate to his campaign. “I am encouraging everyone to go to the Romney for President web site and contribute as much as you can to his campaign for President, up to the maximum of $2500.00 per person,” he wrote. ASG provides software solutions for Global 5000 business and includes among its client portfolio American Express, Coca Cola, DaimlerChrysler, General Electric, HSBC, IBM, Lockeed Martin, Merrill Lynch, Proctor & Gamble, Sony, Toyota, Verizon and Wells Fargo. ASG’s competitors include Primavera Software, Inc., Sap Public Services, Inc, Caci MTL Systems, Inc., Stellent Colorado Springs, Inc.
- After building for himself America’s largest house, David Siegel of Westgate Resorts in Florida (www.westgateresorts.com, Central Florida Investments, Inc., Corporate Headquarters, 5601 Windhover Dr., Orlando, FL 32819; (407) 351-3351) emailed his employees, essentially threatening to fire them if Obama is reelected, warning “if the US re-elects President Obama . . . I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.” Westgate Resorts has resort destinations in Mesa, AZ, Orlando, FL, River Ranch, FL, Daytona Beach, FL, Miami, FL, Branson, MO, Las Vegas, NV, Tunica, MS, Myrtle Beach, SC, Gatlinburg, TN, Park City, UT and Williamsburg, VA, many branded as Westgate Resorts. There are many other resort options that you can choose in these locations.
- David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries (www.kochind.com, P.O. Box 2256, Wichita, KS 67201-2256; (316) 828-5500) and Georgia Pacific (www.gp.com, 133 Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, (404) 652-4000) sent mailers to their employees threatening that if Obama is reelected, “then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences . . .” Koch owns a number of companies in the transportation, energy, textile, water filtration, fertilizer, and building material industries, including companies that produce many consumer products such as Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Brawny, Dixie, Lycra, Stainmaster Carpets and many more.
- Richard Lacks of Lacks Enterprises (www.lackenterprises.com, 5460 Cascade Road SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546; (616) 949-6570), told employees that Obamacare may raise the company’s health insurance costs, which he would pass on to employees. He also warned them that if they failed to vote for Mitt Romney, they could end up with lower pay. Lacks Enterprises is a Michigan auto-parts company that produces radiator grilles, body side moldings, deck lid appliqués, roof and bed rails, fender bent moldings and other exterior trim, wheel assemblies and components and, through Plastic Plate, Inc., interior components. Among its clients are Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, a noted beneficiary of Obama’s Presidency.
- Jack DeWitt of Request Foods (www.requestfoods.com, 3460 John F. Donnelly Dr., Holland, MI 49424; (616) 786-0900) sent a letter to his employees criticizing President Obama for spending too much government money, allegedly losing respect and credibility with other countries, apparently blaming him for all of the abortions over the last forty (not four) years, and for allegedly promoting regulations and rules that make it difficult to start and grow businesses like Request Foods. Mr. DeWitt tells his employees to vote for Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Pete Hoekstra to have less government, less taxes, less regulations, lower gas prices, fewer abortions and so Request Foods can manage healthcare costs. Ironically, Request Foods has experienced its greatest growth under President Obama and received millions in grants from the State of Michigan and through Obama’s stimulus bill. It also benefitted from other corporate welfare programs – for instance, it was exempt from taxes on its new facility for twelve years. Request Foods is a co-packer of frozen prepared entrees, side dishes and specialty items for companies like Campbell’s. It manufactures products under the brand names OverBrook Farms and Zerilli’s. Some of its competitors are West Liberty Foods, Windsor Quality Holdings, and Overhill Farms.
LETTER FOR CEO BULLIES
Dear [CEO Bully]:
I am writing to inform you that I am [now a former consumer of your company’s products and services] or [using my power as a consumer of your biggest clients to ensure that you don’t keep their business]. Your attempts to destroy the democratic principles upon which our country was founded means that I can no longer [purchase/support companies that purchase] any of your products/services and help you fund your political machine. I do not believe that corporations are people and I do not believe that your position in corporate America entitles you to have more votes than the ONE our founders allotted you. Your tactic of pressuring your employees to vote for a particular candidate is despicable and un-American.
What can I do? What am I going to do? I am researching your company and all of the products and services you provide. I am contacting the companies with which you do business and I am conscientiously making sure that my hard earned dollars do not end up in your political coffers. I am publishing a list of your products and services along with a copy of this letter on all of my social networks and I am asking all of my friends, family and colleagues to join me in standing up for our democracy. I am also publishing a list of the products and services of your competitors and am encouraging everyone I know to make sure there will be jobs at those companies for any of your employees who decide to abandon your misguided ship and your unpatriotic political pressure.
Your freedom to speak ends where my freedom and the freedom of my fellow Americans to vote our own conscience begins. Irrespective of what the Supreme Court has decided, I will make sure you hear what we – strong, proud and empowered American citizens – have decided. Our democracy is not for sale. You have no business sending misleading, threatening and intimidating messages to the people who rely on you for employment in an attempt to unfairly influence their political decisions. If that is your choice, then my choice is to make sure your most prosperous days are behind you. My choice is to spend my dollars with companies that treat their employees with respect and fairness and that do not undermine the democratic ideals that have made this country one of the greatest nations on Earth.
LETTER FOR CORPORATE CLIENTS OF CEO BULLIES
Dear [Corporate Customer of Company Headed by CEO Bully]:
I am one of your customers and am troubled to learn that you do business with [COMPANY]. The CEO of [COMPANY] has engaged in tactics designed to bully its employees into voting for his/her political choices rather than their own. Such actions are a major affront to our democracy and I stand with others in denouncing this behavior. I have pledged not to provide financial support to [COMPANY] and I do not want to do so inadvertently by supporting businesses that support [COMPANY]. Therefore, I am asking you to divest your company of its business dealings with [COMPANY]. Please use instead the products and services [COMPANY’s] competitors provide.
At the very least, I request that you publicly denounce [CEO Bully] for his/her despicable and unpatriotic behavior and that you personally write to [CEO Bully] to inform him/her that his/her political bullying may jeopardize [COMPANY’s] ability to do business with you.
Please respond and let me know that you stand with me to protect the freedom and democracy for which so many have sacrificed so much so that I know I can continue to stand as a loyal customer with you.
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