Political Harassment in the Workplace

Chris HayesOn Up with Chris Hayes today, they discussed employer coercion. This is in reference to people like David Siegel who sent his employees a letter telling them that if Obama is reelected, he will have to fire many of them because his taxes will go up.[1] As the panel discussed why we don’t do something about this, Josh Barro came to the rescue. Now, as regular readers know, I don’t much like Barro, but at times he is very insightful. Today, he again showed his repellent side.

“What would you want to do about it?” Josh Barro asked.

This seemed to flummox the generally quick witted Chris Hayes.

No one on the panel could really counter Barro. This is sad, because Barro is offering one of the standard and most vile of conservative arguments: nothing can easily be done therefore nothing can be done. I associate this most strongly with South African apartheid. You might note that despite calls not to boycott the country—”The western companies are the only non-racist ones there!”—boycott we did, and apartheid was indeed destroyed.

I think we can deal with political coercion in the workplace the same way we dealt with sexual coercion. There is a very big difference between a coworker asking you out on a date and your boss doing so. Ditto for your coworker handing you a political pamphlet and your boss doing so. Let’s just call it political harassment, apply the sexual harassment laws to politics, and move on.

But this isn’t even what’s going on in cases like the David Siegel letter. There is no grey line here. This kind of thing should be illegal. But more than that, we really ought to live in a culture where all of David Siegel’s rich friends would ostracize him for such behavior. But given that this isn’t going to happen any time soon, we need laws. And the sexual harassment model is appropriate and easy.


[1] Note that this is nonsense. His claim is that Obama will raise his taxes, so he will have to fire people. This is the usual “job creator” myth. He would not employ these people if they were not making him money. The idea that he would fire some of them is ridiculous. If he did, his income would be reduced before taxes and after any extra taxes Obama might levy. There are two possible things going on here. Either Siegel is lying to his employees to get them to vote for Romney. Or he is so stupid that he actually thinks that his employees cost him money. I tend to think it is the latter. Conservatives have a shocking history of believing their own bullshit.

Update (26 October 2012 8:58 pm)

Gordon Lafer has a really good article on this subject over at The Hill. Again, however, no discussion of solutions.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Political Harassment in the Workplace

  1. Please find a way to propagate that wonderful phrase ‘political harrassment’. We need more people like you coining apt phrases to describe these kinds of pernicious, typically undiscussed, oppression. Well done!

  2. @rj – Thanks. I like the idea. I wish more people were talking about this. It seems pretty easy. Except, of course, that we don’t want to do anything that might upset those skittish "job creators."

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