For example, Republicans and conservatives could support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. If signed into law, the act would override “right-to-work” laws and impose tough penalties on employers who interfered in employees’ attempts to unionize. If part of the problem of “woke capital” is that individual workers lack the power to stand up to employers who don’t share their values, then allowing workers to act and bargain collectively is necessarily part of the solution. And if you fear the overall power of “woke” corporations on American politics, then unions representing the working class are your best weapon against that influence.
Similarly, Republicans and conservatives could work to end “at-will” employment, in which workers can be fired for any reason. If American corporations have been captured by activists eager to “cancel” dissenters, then workers need robust protections in the event they run afoul of an overzealous human resources department or some “woke” Walmart commissar.
A higher federal minimum wage and a more robust social safety net would also work to strengthen employees vis a vis their employers. The less an individual worker needs to rely on market income to survive, the more he or she can pick and choose between jobs. The more corporations have to spend on recruiting and retaining workers, the less they can spend on influencing politics.
If “woke capital” is a real problem, then it’s a labor issue as much as it is a cultural one. And there are many other policies — antitrust regulations against tech companies, “co-determination” to give workers a seat at the corporate table and strict limits on corporate political spending to name just a few — that would curb the power of corporations to impose their values on both their employees and the broader public.
We know, of course, that Republicans aren’t interested in any of this. McConnell might denounce actual corporate speech, but he is a major recipient of corporate dollars and a staunch defender of corporate spending in elections. (He has already backed off his comments. “I didn’t say that very artfully,” he explained the next day.) Neither Rubio nor Hawley has ever met a corporate tax cut he couldn’t support, and the entire Republican Party is united in support of an anti-labor politics that puts ordinary workers at the mercy of capital.
Recall Senator Mitt Romney’s critique of the White House’s relief package from February: “The Biden stimulus calls for checks of $400 a week in addition to state checks through September. At that level, the majority of the unemployed would make more by not working. Employers already complain that they can’t find employees.”
Republican “woke capital” critics are not actually interested in curbing corporate influence and putting power in the hands of workers. They don’t have a problem with corporate speech as a matter of principle. They have a problem with corporate speech as a matter of politics. If the situation were reversed, and corporations were vocal supporters of “election integrity,” then it’s hard to imagine that McConnell or his allies would have a problem.