Work on Political Ads
What is everyone's feeling about having a salaried employee work on a Pro Bono political ad? What if you knew the employee in question is politically / morally opposed to the content of the ad? Can a salaried employee refuse to work on something of a political nature? Does it matter what state it is in? NY or CA?
Well, technically if you are paying the employee's salary, they cut what you instruct them to cut. Like when I was at CNN. I could not "morally refuse" to cut something political in nature that I did not agree with.
However, in my own company, we're a very small shop. 5 full time employees only. If one of my editors objects to something, and they have a valid reason, I will not force them to cut something they don't agree with. This has only been an issue one time with a piece that involved very adult subject matter that the editor was not comfortable with. So I cut the project with the client myself.
In the end, you are paying the salary and you make the decisions. ProBono or not, you're still paying them. I prefer to keep my shop in harmony and would not force any employee to cut a pro bono project they did not agree to. Personally I cut most of the pro bono work myself anyway, usually on my home system at night and weekends.
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Thank you for your response.
I think it has to be completely voluntary, with absolutely no hint of reprisalss or prejudice for any refusals. You can easily harm the workplace esprit de corps and harmony if you are seen as "imposing" this choice on staff. Even if it is legal, it may not be the right way to go about it. Everyone on staff will wonder if refusing a future political assignment on personal grounds will affect their raises or promotions. It can foster a lot of silent resentment and erode relationships. Offsite, or after-hours, with only volunteers, is the way to go here, IMO, for anything at all controversial/ political.
Just a heads-up: In some states, if you make a spot in-house, even pro bono, it's estimated cost if done for profit has to be registered as an "in-kind" campaign contribution by the client, with your state's election authority. This puts you and your company "on the public record" in your support of a particular cause. For some people, this gains them business from like-minded folks over time. For others, it can cost them. Check your state's specific laws.
[Mark Suszko] "This puts you and your company "on the public record" in your support of a particular cause. For some people, this gains them business from like-minded folks over time. For others, it can cost them."
The positive side of this is true in many ways, not just politics. I've seen many businesses gain clients because they go to the same church, belong to the same country club, kids go to the same school and so on.
In politics these affiliations often become completely rigid, especially here around Washington where I am. If you're working in a campaign you don't want your opponents people peeking into the machine room while your spots are being dubbed, so you're going to be careful who's doing your post and related services. What I find almost humorous (if it didn't show the extreme degree of polarization) is announcers' demo reels which clearly state "Republican only" or "Democrat only."
I was born in Chicago, and lived a couple of decades in Springfield, the capitol of Illinois. Politics is the local sport in both places, and they play for all the marbles. Once you take a side, you're locked in. Today's polarized climate makes it worse, or more serious) than ever.
Thank you all for the responses.
Now, if the shoe was on the other foot, and you were the employee, what would you do? Would you refuse to work on political spot?
I once refused to work on a PSA for air that showed real footage of an actual fatality - I mean, the actual last moments of the guy dying as he's flung from a car wreck and tumbling along the ground, with the vehicle tumbling behind him and ending up crushing his head (or very nearly), all in one shot. I was willing to grieve it thru the union if they tried to force me to comply. Somebody else did the work instead. You have to know, there is always someone else who will do something you're not willing to do.
I'm lucky in that I work in a non-partisan government job where the rules specifically prohibit me from making any kind of political campaign spot on the job. But - if I want to make spots at home on my own time, with my own gear, I'm free to do so.
It's a hypothetical in my case, but I'd like to think that if I was working in a private company, I would refuse to work on any spot that I found morally wrong, like a pro-tobacco ad, for instance. And I wouldn't want to work on a political spot that was against my beliefs. In any case, why would you ever force your people to work on political spots they disagree with, if you want the best work out of them? Isn't is more sensible to ask for a volunteer that supports the cause and thus would give their best effort to it? I completely understand that there are those guys out there, a lot of them, that have no issues at all with working for clients that they don't agree with politically, playing both sides. Their money spends just the same, I know. I don't wish them any harm, but I can't work like that. I guess at my age, I'm ready to stand for certain things and not for others, its just how I roll.
That probably makes me a poor businessman, but I hope it makes me a decent human being.
I personally feel that letting an employee know that you understand he/she may not agree with the message that the project conveys, AND that you completely respect their opinion and their right to have an opinion, most quality employees would be satisfied. The human element, in my experience, is what employees really need. In other words, knowing that you care about them, and respect them, is what they really want. This is how I feel as a production house owner, and also as someone considering the employee's perspective in this scenario.
Having said that, I don't feel that they should be able to refuse to work on the project. If you are able to juggle your staff in a way that puts someone else on the project, great. That would be very fair on your part. But you can't change your entire operation for something like this, partly because that doesn't make business sense (and I'm assuming you aren't forcing your views on them, so they shouldn't expect to force their views on your company), and also because it sets a precedent that you may have to adhere to in the future.