The political scientist Alexander Hertel-Fernandez has found that many workplaces are saturated with political messages. Sometimes, employers and their lobbyists hope to benefit from workers’ legitimacy on issues that affect them by leveraging their voices in lobbying campaigns. A recent astroturfing campaign to oppose a Washington, D.C., initiative to eliminate the tipped minimum wage is one example. Another, older example involves a 1959 law that imposed new constraints on unions. Senator Paul Douglas read into the Congressional Record a constituent letter, which the writer sent to cancel out an earlier message of support for the law—that one sent at the direction of her boss. “I wonder how many other stenographer-secretaries have spent days and days writing and wiring Senators and Congressmen urging support … in the names of various firm executives, their friends, relatives, and employees,” the letter mused.
Employers also seek to influence their employees’ support for candidates or issues within the workplace, sometimes through coercion or manipulation. Employers have outright fired workers for their political bumper stickers. Others have tried to change their workers’ minds; for example, the CEO of the time-share company Westgate Resorts sent his 7,000 employees an email predicting layoffs and benefit cuts if President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012. Was he serious? Apparently not, but it is easy to imagine workers thinking otherwise when casting their ballots.