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Political Coercion

December 27, 2012

So Starbucks employees in the Washington DC area, in addition to their usual coffee-serving duties, are being forced this week to also hand-write a vague-sounding but essentially political message on each coffee cup:

This week through December 28, partners in our Washington D.C. area stores are writing “Come Together” on customers’ cups.

It’s a small gesture, but the power of small gestures is what Starbucks is about! Imagine the power of our partners and hundreds of thousands of customers each sharing such a simple message, one cup at a time.

Never before have we asked our partners to write something specific on our customers’ cups.

Of course, if that was all they were doing, “Come Together” could just mean celebrate the holidays together with friends and family, but the linked website shows that it’s really about getting behind a “fix the debt” plan which would “reform”, i.e. cut, Medicare and Medicaid, and include tax reform which “broadens the base”, i.e. increases taxes for poor people.

I feel sorry for the people working there, because they’re being “asked”, i.e. forced, not only to promote a policy that’s against their economic interests, but to hand-write stuff on every coffee cup served, which, given the time pressure you’re under to fulfill orders at a typically crowded urban Starbucks, would probably lead to carpal tunnel syndrome if done for more than a week.

This “small gesture” is part of a larger trend of employers using, not just their money, but their power over employees’ lives, to influence politics.  The US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United got a lot of press for increasing the influence of money in politics, but I think it was less noted that this doesn’t just mean super PACs running bigger barrages of expensive TV ads–it also means business owners making veiled threats to fire their employees if the candidate they oppose wins the election:

Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

and forcing workers to attend political rallies on their own time:

In Ohio, coal mine owner Robert Murray left employees in no doubt that they were expected to attend a Romney rally – off the clock and without pay.

(The above-mentioned company also coerced employees to donate financially to the campaign and kept a list of which employees didn’t attend campaign fundraisers.)

Regardless of your politics–left, right, center, none–you should be up in arms about this.

Workplacefairness.org has an FAQ page that gives more information on how far US companies can go to “influence” the political decisions of the workers who depend on them for their livelihood.  I encourage you to study it.

I also encourage you to join the fight to overturn Citizens United, via an amendment to the Constitution which is gaining more and more support in Congress.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 6, 2013 11:31 am

    Have you noticed how america increasingly resembles a “third world” country? Guess what. It’s no accident.

    Welcome to Earth, the third world planet.

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