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Get Out the Vote for November 4

Chairman's Column - October 2008

Chip Hornsby, Wolseley PLC
2008 NAW Chairman of the Board

From one wholesale distribution business executive to another, let me simply say: “Please Vote.” And, equally important: “Please encourage all of your employees to vote.”

Our employees have just as much at stake in the outcome of the elections as we do, and we should not only encourage them to vote, but also provide them with information about how to do so. Communicating with your employees by e-mail about voting, candidates, and issues important to your company and to their jobs is very easy and it’s cost-free.

NAW works closely with the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), which has developed highly sophisticated but easy-to-use tools to encourage business-friendly voter turnout. Through BIPAC’s state-of-the-art election tools program, NAW makes information about voting and elections available to NAW member companies and associations. By simply going to NAW’s Web site: http://www.naw.org, clicking on the “VOTE” button in the upper right corner of the screen, and typing in a zip code, you and your employees can get immediate and real-time information. You’ll find out where and how to register to vote, how to obtain an absentee ballot, whether “early voting” is allowed in your state, and all relevant registration and ballot deadlines. In these last few weeks before the elections, NAW is posting on its Web site the names of the federal candidates who will appear on the ballot in a particular state and district, as well as how incumbent candidates have voted on issues critical to the wholesale distribution industry—and, therefore, critical to each employee’s job.

What’s more, post-election surveys taken each year by BIPAC consistently show that workers welcome this type of communication. According to the BIPAC surveys, a larger percentage of workers believe their employers are the most credible source of information on elections and politics than those that trust any other source. In addition, 58% of employees who receive information from their employers believe that their employers should be more active in this effort.

Voter turnout substantiates that survey data. BIPAC reports that employees who received seven or more candidate/issue/election-related e-mail messages from their employers reacted positively to that communication by a 4-to-1 margin. And, voter turnout among those workers increased by 29%. What’s more, 46% of employees reported that the information they received from their employers was helpful to them in deciding which way to vote.

And, with absentee ballots available everywhere and early voting available in most states, reasons like “too busy,” “out of town,” and “scheduling conflict” are just no excuse for not voting.

With all of the economic challenges facing us today, it is more important than ever that we get involved. In fact, we fail to do so at our peril. Friends, there is far too much at stake for business to just sit home this year, or for business to leave energetic get-out-the-vote efforts to others to do.

Organized labor and its advocates are not leaving the election results to chance. They see a potential historical trifecta this year, and they are making an intense effort to achieve it. Their goal:

  1. The election of a pro-labor majority in the U.S. House of Representatives
  2. A filibuster-proof, 60-vote pro-labor majority in the U.S. Senate
  3. A new president who will sign their long-stalled legislative priorities into law.

According to published reports, the AFL-CIO, labor’s Change to Win Coalition, and several individual unions will combine their resources and coordinate their efforts to ensure the election of a union-friendly Congress and White House next month. As reported by the Associated Press in March: “‘This will be the biggest labor effort in history,’ said Greg Tarpinian, executive director of Change to Win. ‘This will dwarf anything we have seen in the past.’”

And, as reported in the Wall Street Journal only a few days later: “How bad does Big Labor want this? Consider the money and manpower so far. The AFL-CIO has approved a record political budget of $53 million to help fund 200,000 union workers on the street. Its affiliated national and international unions have pledged another $200 million. The National Education Association will throw $40-$50 million at races. The Service Employees International Union has marked off $100 million for politics and intends to pay 2,000 union members the equivalent of their salaries to work on Democratic campaigns. Add in union money for federal or state political action committees, for 527s, and for local and state races, and some astute members of the business community—those who have seen this coming “tsunami” (as one puts it)—estimate union political spending may top $1 billion in 2008.”

If organized labor and its advocates succeed in their election goals, they will also succeed in their policy and legislative goals for 2009. Their first priority will be to pass and have signed into law the Employee Free Choice Act, effectively eliminating secret ballot elections in union organizing campaigns and imposing binding interest arbitration on employers in negotiating first contracts. And, the list of legislative priorities to follow is equally alarming: expanded workplace mandates; increased tax rates on small businesses and upper income earners, capital gains and dividends; and LIFO repeal. And we will not see free trade agreements, tort or legal reform, or pro-business economic policy.

Organized Labor and its advocates obviously have a lot at stake in this election. But so does American business. They are committed to doing everything they can to win. Are we just as committed?