In an act that smacks of medieval feudalism, ASG Software Solutions Chief Executive Officer Arthur Allen sent an email to the Naples, Florida-based firm’s 1,000 employees in 70 offices worldwide that threatened employees’ jobs if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney isn’t elected president.
In the message, which was obtained and broadcast by MSNBC’s “Up w/ Chris Hayes,” Allen warned his employees that he is contemplating selling the company if President Barack Obama is re-elected. The email stated:
Many of you have been with ASG for over 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years. As you know, together, we have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers. But I can tell you, if the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. I am already heavily involved in considering options that make our independence go away, and with that all of our lives would change forever. … If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.
Allen was neither alone nor the first super-rich business overlord to issue such a threat to his underlings. Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel sent a similar email to “All My Valued Employees,” warning them that, “The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration.”
During an interview on CNBC, Siegel denied threatening any employees for voting for Obama. But he did say that job losses at his company were certain if the president is re-elected. “I’m just informing my employees that [under] an Obama administration, there’s a good chance we’ll have to downsize again and their futures might be jeopardized,” Siegel said. “I’m not worried about myself; I’m worried about my employees and their future.”
There are more of these imperial masters of their universes getting into the act. A progressive website called In These Times reported that 45,000 employees of Georgia Pacific—a company owned by billionaire right-wing activists David and Charles Koch—received pro-Romney mailers, darkly hinting at job losses if Obama is re-elected. The pamphlets read:
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.
If you were an employee at Georgia Pacific, how would you define “other ills?” What other explanation could there be for such warnings?
Regrettably, what they’re doing barely falls within the boundaries of the law. All of these companies are privately held, and the CEOs have been careful to claim that economic decisions—not retribution for an individual’s franchise—lie at the heart of any future cutbacks. But who are they kidding?
Whether their email messages of potential future firing are legal or not, there’s no question such electioneering is immoral and un-American. Nobody in a position of employment influence should seek to influence a political outcome by holding a job or income over the workers’ heads. That’s just wrong!
Interestingly, this was standard practice by feudal lords and barons during the time when monarchs ruled Europe with unchallenged authority. The elite few controlled the land, the industry, and the capital, and they issued rules by fiat. The masses of poor serfs obeyed the rich and powerful or risked losing their jobs, their liberty, or worse, their lives.
Clearly, some plutocratic chief executives are anxious about the upcoming presidential election. But more than that, their immoral acts of political intimidation suggest they long for a return to the Dark Ages.
Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.