Like most Plastics News readers, you're probably someone's boss.
You may be a company owner, president, CEO, vice president, or some sort of manager or supervisor. You may have an army of workers below you on the organizational chart or just a handful. But whatever the number, you know they're used to doing what you say.
But does that include voting the way you tell them?
Workers at Triangle Rubber and Plastics Co. in Goshen, Ind., made headlines last week when one complained to the local TV station because the company president included a letter with paychecks urging employees to vote for Donald Trump for president.
Triangle CEO Paul Gerwels acknowledged in the letter that there are reasons that people may not like either Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton. But Gerwels said Trump's anti-abortion stance was the best reason for workers to choose Trump and his running mate Mike Pence.
The local TV news talked to a worker, who wasn't named. The worker said he was “shocked and surprised” to get the letter.
“It's not their place to tell us who to vote for, especially with the payroll, it almost seemed like a scare tactic to pressure us to vote, otherwise maybe we wouldn't get a paycheck,” the worker said. He added: “That's kind of scary, to think our CEO would try to manipulate us like that. It's irresponsible, unprofessional and not becoming of someone who holds such a high position in our company.”
Is he right?
I'm in a business — the media — that spends a lot of time trying to convince people to do something. Support a certain cause, vote for a specific candidate, pay attention to a neglected problem.
Reporters write about issues, but generally stay above the fray. For the sake of credibility, they need readers to understand that they're impartial, and their news coverage isn't biased.
But columnists and pundits of all kinds are happy to tell everyone what they should think. And I do my share of that most weeks on the Plastics News editorial page.
That doesn't extend to endorsing candidates for political office. As I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago, that's not really our place as a trade magazine. But how about company owners telling workers how to vote? Is that crossing a line?
I don't think so. But my advice is to be careful, and be aware that some people, like the worker quoted by the TV station, will view the effort as “unprofessional.”
Look, especially in this election, it seems that everyone is trying to tell everyone else how to vote. In the old days, workers were told who to vote for by a pretty small circle of people: parents and grandparents, their union, maybe their church, and a few close family members and friends who felt comfortable talking about the uncomfortable subject of politics.
Now, with social media, they can do a pretty good job of categorizing family, friends and even acquaintances, knowing who's “with her” and who wants to “make America great again.”
So what's wrong with the boss telling you who they like?
Well, in some cases, it can backfire.
Consider the example of Dick Yuengling Jr., owner of D.G. Yuengling & Son, a regionally famous brewery in Pottsville, Pa. He endorsed Trump in a pretty high-profile way, during a visit to the brewery by Donald's son Eric.
“Our guys are behind your father,” Yuengling said. “We need him in there.”
Almost immediately, some customers who don't feel the same way announced that they would boycott Yuengling's beer.
Consumer product companies like Yuengling are going to be more susceptible to a boycott than a rubber and thermoplastic elastomer molder like Triangle Rubber and Plastics. But keep in mind that no matter what your political stance is, some people are going to disagree.
If you want employees and coworkers to know who you support, a bumper sticker or yard sign in front of the plant may be more subtle and less likely to alienate than a letter with the paycheck.
Or be like everyone else and put it on your Facebook page. Just be prepared for a debate — or to be unfriended.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.