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Koch Industries Orders Workers Not To Discuss Kochs' Politics On Social Media

Decree could violate National Labor Relations Board ruling.

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Kochs, Other Employers Retain Broad Latitude to Impose Views

Koch Industries lawyers can likely rewrite the social media policy to pass muster under the National Labor Relations Act. And under the broad definition of corporate political speech in Citizens United, the Kochs and other employers can use their position of economic power to engage in various other forms of political intimidation or coercion.

This includes mailers like those sent by the Kochs or  Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel, as well as mandatory political meetings where workers must listen to their employer's political views under the threat of termination. It also includes events like the Romney campaign rally in Ohio last August, where miners employed by Murray Energy were  required to attend without pay. Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray is a major Republican benefactor who has also  reportedly compelled employees to contribute to his favored political candidates.

"Workplaces are suffused with an unequal power dynamic," Secunda says, and these forms of communications and requirements are often coercive.

Finding solutions to these issues that don't run afoul of the First Amendment is difficult, particularly under the broader corporate free speech rights established in Citizens United. Secunda has  offered a partial solution: a national law similar to Oregon's Worker Freedom Act, which gives private employees the right to sue if they are terminated for refusing to attend mandatory political, anti-union, or religious meetings.

Talking Points on ALEC Also Distributed 

The Kochs are not just telling their employees who to vote for, they are also instructing them how to feel about ALEC. In addition to the list of the Kochs' preferred political candidates, the 67-page packet sent to Koch Industries employees included a  letter from Charles Koch defending ALEC and criticizing the  the growing number of corporations that have cut ties with the organization for a "lack of courage."

A Koch Industries representative has long sat on ALEC's governing private enterprise board, its lobbyists are members of several ALEC task forces, and tens of thousands of Koch Industries funds have gone toward sponsoring ALEC meetings. The Koch brothers have also  contributed hundreds of thousands to ALEC in recent years through the charitable foundations they control.

Charles Koch's letter applauds the courage of himself and his brother David ("It is difficult to underestimate the value of courage, especially during challenging times like these, when we are being attacked by powerful politicians and irresponsible media"), while criticizing the corporations that have listened to the concerns of their customers and left ALEC. To date,  41 major American companies have dropped their ALEC memberships, including America's largest corporation, Wal-Mart. According to Koch, "several corporations couldn’t throw in the towel fast enough."

The letter departs from ALEC's own  talking point that CMD is trying to "create the false impression that companies are departing from ALEC."


Brendan Fischer is general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of PR Watch.

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