No More Politics in the Workplace

Last night, Expensify CEO David Barrett sent an email urging all their customers to vote for Joe Biden. The response was predictably polarizing, with a lot of people arguing that workplaces shouldn’t be politicized.

Okay, fine. But if we’re doing this, can we carry it through to the end? Because I can think of a lot of corporate political activism that the people complaining are suspiciously quiet about.

They don’t seem to mind when companies donate thousands of dollars to political campaigns.

Or when they sign multi-billion dollar contracts with the military.

Or when they kill taxes that would fund affordable housing.

Or when they fire employees involved in labor organizing.

Or when they allow politicians to use their premises for propaganda.

No, those are all the acceptable kind of corporate politics. The kind that happens in backrooms and hides away on balance sheets. The kind in which lobbyists scratch the backs of politicians in return for favors that aren’t technically quid pro quo.

The message seems to be that it’s fine when companies try to bend the system to their whims, but how dare they try to impose their politics on me, personally. They can put their thumbs on the scale to fatten their wallets, but they cross a line when they suggest that I might be a bad person.

It’s the same bullshit attitude behind Coinbase’s decision to ban political discussion at work, even though a cryptocurrency exchange is an inherently political business.

Listen. I get it. You want to be able to work without worrying whether you fall on the wrong side of your employer’s politics. That’s a fair stance to take.

And if you want to fully embrace that stance, more power to you. There are so many instances of private industry cozying up to the government for an unfair advantage. Let’s end lobbying, corporate welfare and police/military contracts. Let’s get rid of revolving doors and regulatory capture. Let’s stop letting companies draft legislation. No more politics in the workplace.

But if your principled opposition begins and ends with someone telling you that a political candidate who has explicitly advocated for voter suppression is anti-democratic, then maybe just sit this one out.