Florida magnate threatens firings if Obama wins

Published on People’s World, by Mark Gruenenberg, Oct. 19, 2012.

Shades of 1896: A Florida-based time-share magnate, billionaire David Siegel, is threatening to fire workers if a Democratic Party’s presidential nominee – in this case, incumbent Barack Obama – wins the November election.  

In an Oct. 8 e-mail to all 8,000 workers at Westgate Resorts nationwide, Siegel stated if Obama wins and “enacts more corporate taxes,” Siegel would have no choice but to fire people. Media in cities with Westgate properties, including in the swing states of Florida and Arizona, picked up his threat – as did media as far away as India.

Siegel’s e-mail and a similar, but milder, comment by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney earlier this year, did not surprise AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who said unionists have seen increasing instances of such business coercion this year

“Apparently, Romney doesn’t believe in workplace democracy,” Trumka said. “As more and more reports of employer coercion of workers’ political rights emerge, it is clear Romney’s disdain for workplace rights is not unique. In fact, employer communications to workers we are seeing include both direct and implicit threats and scare tactics to make employees fear for their jobs if Obama wins.

“These are the same tactics employers use against workers trying to organize. The Supreme Court has long recognized that even what appears on its face to be mere persuasion becomes inherently coercive when it’s an employer urging its employees to take particular actions.”

Siegel’s e-mail harkens back to the 1896 presidential race between business-backed GOP nominee William McKinley and fiery Democratic and pro-worker populist William Jennings Bryan. McKinley’s campaign was one of the first, if not the first, presidential drive to be fueled by millions of dollars in corporate campaign cash.

The1896 race was also notable for industrialists telling their workers: “If Bryan wins on Tuesday, don’t come in on Wednesday.” That threat, the cash and lingering hatred of the Democrats for their ties to Southern racists who caused the Civil War – McKinley was a Civil War veteran, Bryan was not – produced a McKinley landslide … //

… Romney, in an interactive town hall video in June with the radical right National Federation of Independent Business, didn’t go as far. The video, posted on YouTube by In These Times, shows Romney stuck to the letter of the law, but left a clear impression with his listeners.

“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,” Romney said. “Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision.”
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