Faith & community leaders take a stand
Announce formal complaint against Rite-Hite CEO Michael White’s illegal voter intimidation
On Monday at a major media event in Milwaukee, faith and community leaders announced the filing of a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Board (GAB) against Rite- Hite CEO Michael White for violating Wisconsin election law. The complaint states that White’s illegal and misleading communication with employees, sent the week of October 21, 2012, was an attempt to intimidate more than 1,400 employees into voting for Mitt Romney.
In his message, chairman and owner Michael White, urged employees to “understand the personal consequences . . . if President Obama is re-elected.” The letter goes on to threaten the security of employees’ retirement accounts and health care plans, stating that if the President is re-elected, “Every opportunity to make up for lost profits to taxes will have to be evaluated.” This is a violation of Wisconsin election law.
“What Michael White did was wrong; morally wrong, ethically wrong, and illegal according to Wisconsin law,” said Minister Greg Lewis. “We can not sit idly by and watch employers abuse their power and intimidate workers into voting a certain way. We filed this complaint to stop this abuse of power and to protect our democracy,” continued Lewis.
“Our election laws are set up to protect employees from undue influence and intimidation. The statute is a codification of the very basic notion that bosses do not have the right to threaten the security of their employees’ jobs, retirement accounts, or health care plans based on who they vote for in a presidential election,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Economic Justice Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
“Voting is a Constitutional right. No worker should fear retribution or retaliation from an employer when they cast their ballot,” said Cody Misiak, a Milwaukee grocery worker.
“As a worker, after seeing a coercive email like that, the only thing that would set things right is if the boss took back what he said and apologized for abusing his power,” continued Misiak.
“We demand that Michael White immediately retract his email, apologize to employees, and post that apology publicly at the workplace. ” said Mike Wilder, director of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable, and a member of the staff of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Democracy only functions if workers are free to vote however they choose without fear of reprisal from their boss.”
Mike Wilder, director of the African American Civic Engagement Roundtable and a member of the staff of Citizen Action of Wisconsin; Christine Christie, a Milwaukee resident; Minister Greg Lewis; Larry Miller, a member of the Milwaukee School Board; and Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, filed the complaint with the Government Accountability Board.
More than 25 community organizations, faith leaders, labor unions and elected officials have sponsored the complaint. Organizations supporting the complaint include: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable, Wisconsin Jobs Now, AFT Local 212, Wisconsin State AFLCIO, AFT Wisconsin, SEIU, MTEA, United Steelworkers of America, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Voces De La Frontera, SEIU Local 150, All Black Everything (ABE), ATU Local 998, The Transit Riders Union, The League of Young Voters Education Fund, 9to5 Milwaukee, Urban Underground, True Skool, Reproductive Justice Collective, MICAH, NAACP Milwaukee Chapter, Afro World Enterprises, the Center for Progressive Leadership, Alderman Tony Zielinski, School Board Director Larry Miller, and School Board Director Peter Blewett.
The the applicable part of Wisconsin law reads as follows: “No employer or agent of an employer may distribute to any employee printed matter containing any threat, notice or information that if a particular ticket of a political party or organization or candidate is elected or any referendum question is adopted or rejected, work in the employer’s place or establishment will cease, in whole or in part, or the place or establishment will be closed, or the salaries or wages of the employees will be reduced, or other threats intended to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees.” Wisconsin Statute 12.07(3)