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Wynn Resorts, the third-largest casino operator in the U.S., recently mailed a “2012 General Election Voter Guide” to its 12,000 employees in Nevada. The bound booklet, obtained by The Huffington Post, identifies candidates whom the Las Vegas-based company supports, leading to what one worker described as a feeling of being pressured to vote for candidates favored by the boss. This pressure is compounded by the behavior of company CEO Steve Wynn, who has used corporate time and media to attack President Barack Obama’s policies.
The 67-page booklet is titled “WE Vote,” a reference to the Wynn Encore resort brand, and opens with a letter from President Marilyn Spiegel. The preferred candidates, she writes, “support policies that help promote a friendly business and living environment to Wynn Resorts, our approximately 12,000 employees, and the gaming industry as a whole.”
The favored candidates for state and local offices are identified throughout the document with a Wynn logo. No federal candidate appears with a logo, but the CEO’s rhetoric and the company PAC’s federal donations, all supporting the GOP side, offer their own clues.
Employment experts say that the Wynn voter guide represents an unprecedented level of organization and investment by a corporation seeking to push its employees to vote a certain way.
“We’ve never seen something like this before,” said Deborah Weinstein, founding partner of Philadelphia’s Weinstein Firm, a boutique law office that advises public companies on labor and employment issues. “It is certainly a post-Citizens United invention,” the veteran lawyer said, referring to the landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision that greatly expanded the rights of corporations to engage in political speech and nullified certain employee protections against it.
Michael Johnson, CEO of the workplace compliance training firm Clear Law Institute in Arlington, Va., agreed, telling HuffPost that prior to this year, “I don’t recall seeing companies suggest to their employees who they should vote for.”
A spokesman for Wynn Resorts, Michael Weaver, initially denied that this was the company’s first printed voting guide, telling HuffPost that the company “does this every year” and had sent around a similar employee voting guide in 2008. Weaver later reversed himself, admitting that Wynn Resorts didn’t create voter guides until 2010, months after the Citizens United ruling. He sent HuffPost the 2010 guide, which he said had been made available to workers online.
While the Wynn Resorts Ltd. PAC has not contributed directly to the campaigns of either GOP nominee Mitt Romney or President Obama — but has backed Republican congressional candidates — one Wynn Resorts employee, who agreed to speak about the mailing on the condition of anonymity, said there was little doubt in her workplace for whom employees were supposed to vote.
“If I had an Obama bumper sticker, I’d be scared for my job,” she said. Other Wynn casino workers refused to talk to reporters.
“We’re not supposed to talk politics at work,” the woman said, which is why she said she was shocked when the document arrived in the mail. A registered independent, she’s worried what might happen to employees who are caught backing non-Wynn-sponsored candidates outside work, like with “a yard sign, a donation or a blog [post].”
Asked what prompted this fear, the woman said it had a lot to do with Steve Wynn, the flamboyant CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts.