Will having political bumper stickers on my vehicle jeopardize my job?
February 15, 2019 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Now that I have my OWN vehicle - not a 'family' car I share with my wife - I was thinking of making it my own with bumper stickers, but I am concerned that they might jeopardize my job.

I work (right now) as a long-haul truck driver, although I hope, in September, I might be moved into the office to join the I.T. department.

Everyday I see offensive (racist, sexist, etc.) bumper stickers, and even more that seem hateful, reactionary, and sexually provocative.

I feel like I should be able to bumper sticker my vehicle the way I want to: anti-war, Black Lives Matter, socialism, trade unionism, Free Palestine, etc.

A part of me is concerned this will impact my job prospects, both current and future, and a part of me is like, "Well, that ship has sailed already!" I have been active in politics for years: writing articles, attending demonstrations, running in elections, etc. A Google search of my name will show articles I have written, election coverage by news outlets, photos of me in demonstrations, etc.

posted by 8LeggedFriend to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no overall answer, but: The people who will Google you are probably a different set to the ones who will see bumper stickers on your truck, so I don't think this is just more of the same.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:54 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Personally, I prefer to keep most things about my personal life separate from my job. This includes religion, sex and relationship stuff, activism, and politics. My thought behind this is I wouldn't want someone to think more or less of me based on some category they perceive me to belong to, I'd rather be judged by how well I do my job. For me, if I make some of my more personal beliefs known, I will forever be wondering if the way I'm treated at work relates to that. Even if people have a guess as to where I fall on things, I prefer to not rub it in their faces and make them feel obligated to respond or argue with me. As a result, I've chosen to keep my bumperstickers a little more lighthearted- topics include Hawaii, Mars, Lil' Bub, Libraries, some local businesses, and MetaFilter.

This also depends on how likely it is that people will connect you to your car- if it's a huge company with a massive parking lot and you don't socialize with coworkers much outside of work, this may not be as much of an issue.
posted by Secretariat at 3:58 PM on February 15, 2019 [10 favorites]

And agreed, most people aren't going to bother googling you, so I don't think that ship has sailed yet. By not broadcasting some of this stuff, you can also choose if, how and when you want to have conversations with coworkers about subjects you feel passionate about.
posted by Secretariat at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2019

I think there are a few different issues here.

Your job is driving a truck, presumably on behalf of your employer. Is the vehicle you want to put a bumper sticker on the vehicle you use for work? If we're talking about wanting to put a bumper sticker on your work vehicle/a vehicle you use as a representative of your company, I'd say no. Hard no. Even if it's something relatively uncontroversial. There are so many ways that could ultimately bite you on the ass. Even if in a just world, it wouldn't be their business.

Assuming it's your personal vehicle and that you never drive it during work hours, here's what I think it breaks down to:

- How controversial are the stickers? An I'm With Her/Bernie sticker, Coexist, Free Tibet, Green New Deal Now! etc type of thing would probably not be controversial in most parts of the US (can't weigh in on bumper sticker culture elsewhere), and it seems unlikely that, in the event that your coworkers or employers see your car and note the stickers, that they would find their existence to be noteworthy at all. Much less affect your employment or future prospects. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter might be good in some places and a real issue in others, depending on local politics (I just recently saw one in my major coastal city and thought it was great, I would hesitate to drive around rural Alabama with that). Pro Palestine, socialist, and other causes further to the Left and the political fringes also seem dicey to me, though to an extent this may depend on the culture where you are. I see plenty of pro union stickers where I am and usually assume the person driving is in a union. Which seems uncontroversial to me.

- What is the local culture like around things like this? I have a (non-political, but distinctive) sticker on my car, and nobody I work with has ever seen it, associated it with me, or remarked on it at all. Lots of people in my major city have stickers on their cars, and I can't imagine it being an impediment to employment or a factor in one's personal reputation unless it was an extremely egregious sticker. I struggle to think of a situation where it would ever come up. That said, I think that if you live in a small town, where people recognize each others' cars and it's normal for people to be up in each others' business a bit more, this might be really bad advice.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Well, way back in 1992, I went to work for a company at which Richard Riordan was a not-major stockholder (10-15%). The office was in Pasadena but I was living in L.A., and he ran for Mayor of L.A. the next year. I really was enthusiastically supporting one of the other candidates, but I asked if it would be a bad idea to have a bumper sticker on my car in the company parking lot, even if he was unlikely to visit (between campaigning and several companies he owned larger shares of). And even though they said he'd be unlikely to react badly (and he did beat my candidate decisively), I was advised to "play it safe".

More recently, during the 2016 campaign, I acquired a red baseball cap with the 'satirical' message "Make Donald Drumpf Again". I wore it once in public but was very self-conscious and was checking every car in the parking lot of the store for political messages. So it was put away under all my other caps - definitely didn't get my money's worth there.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been told that decorated cars in general are more likely to be vandalized. This is why I don't stick anything on my car. If you are surrounded by "the other side" this much, I think that ups your odds of it. If this is a vehicle you are using for work, that's also not great. I wouldn't do it, or at least I wouldn't put anything on that you can't easily remove.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

My thinking on this is "why turn a warning in to a ticket if you're pulled over by a police officer who doesn't share your political views?"
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2019 [16 favorites]

What’s the point?

I mean that seriously. What do you hope to accomplish by putting bumper stickers, political or not, on your vehicle? Is it just to combat the offensive bumper stickers you see, or is it because they make you happy, or do you hope that it will spark conversation and change?

Bumper stickers that try to get any substantial message across seem pointless to me. So I guess figure out why you want this thing first, and then decide if that’s worth the potential hassle.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Bumper stickers seem to roughly separate into three classes: advertising (I try to actively ignore these), humor (only rarely successful, like most humor) and tribalism (the predominant species).

In my opinion, tribal stickers never change minds, they just label you as a member of the tribe. Sometimes (rarely) this leads to someone from an opposing tribe damaging your car. I'd say, if your identity demands it, go for it, but recognize why you're doing it and be prepared to deal with any problem. Basically, tribal bumper stickers may be thought of as an Asshole Magnet.

During grad school in the deep South, I had a bumper sticker on my car that said "Honk If You Believe In Evolution." No one ever honked, but no one busted all my windows, either. So, "Go Science!"
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

Political bumper stickers are the original slactivism but I still say go for it.

I really like reading other peoples bumper stickers. Especially the liberal ones. Especially in the current administration. I like to know that a ship passing in the night is on my team.

On preview, I have a Honk if you hate Trump sticker and I will get a solidarity honk every now and then.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:51 PM on February 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

To build on what Larry David Syndrome said, I remember a lefty blogger pointing out that most cops are conservative or conservative-sympathetic, so lefty bumper stickers just make you a target. I was thinking of this again just recently when I read the story of the Portland Police palling around with and coordinating with far-right activists.
posted by ejs at 9:57 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don’t think your employer will - or should - give you any problem. In a work context it sounds illegal.

I would only worry about being stopped by cops. I have a very small Mazdarati sticker on my back window but I keep it discrete. I don’t care what other drivers think, I’m only worried about cops. I’m a law-abiding driver (especially compared with most other Portland, OR drivers) but the hassle isn’t worth the satisfaction I could get from a political bumper sticker.

I’m not about to put one of my “Lane splitting because fuck you” stickers on my motorcycle helmet. Your vehicle is not the best, and especially not the most effective, place to get your point across. I’m writing to my state government this weekend urging them to pass a current bill that will make lane-splitting legal.
posted by bendy at 3:39 AM on February 16, 2019

The correct answer is: It might hurt your career. We can’t tell from here. It might also have other effects you don’t anticipate, for bad or good.

I used to avoid stickers on my car when I lived in big cities, for many reasons cited above. I was trying to avoid: tribalism, pointlessness, vandalism, provocation of authorities, nasty remarks from anyone.

A year ago I moved to a small city in a rural area that’s much whiter and more politically right wing than anywhere I’ve lived since childhood. Stickers (and giant FLAGS sometimes) most common here: Trump, guns in general, hunting iconography, Gadsden flag, NRA, thin blue line US flags.

I plastered my car in leftist bumper stickers and here’s why:

I am letting the townspeople here know that progressive policies are the humane policies. I am going about my daily business alongside them and showing them that “loony leftists” shoot targets and skeet, buy groceries, go to farm stands, pick up stuff at Hime Depot, and give Halloween candy to their kids. And I’m sick to DEATH of fellow white people presuming I hold the same racist/misogynist/xenophobic opinions they hold before I even open my mouth. We also have a sign in our yard proclaiming our values (BLM, water is life, science is real etc), and not only has no one vandalized our house, but two neighbors and a delivery driver have rung our doorbell expressly to tell us how much they agree with our bumpers stickers and yard sign. I also wear leftist T-shirts to my gym full of age 50+ white people. I never flaunted my political opinions before now though. I turn 50 this year, and I have zero fucks left to give since November of 2016.

As for my career, I do admittedly have a pretty large amount of privilege there: I’m in the leadership of my company, and the partners hired me already knowing my political views. I also have 23 years of experience in my field. And since 2016 I have chosen to mix my political views in with my industry opinions on Twitter. It has not hurt my career. But my industry leans left.

PS I am a hetero cis woman presenting as female, and I drive a Subaru.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:38 AM on February 16, 2019 [16 favorites]

My sense is that as wise as the collective wisdom of AskMe is, you will not come away convinced that bumper stickers won't be a problem. Therefore it will continue to bug you indefinitely if you go ahead.

Personally I wouldn't do it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:55 PM on February 16, 2019

Can you be fired for having a political bumper sticker on your car?
Yes you can.
posted by TedW at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

At a minimum they are a great way to get your car keyed.
posted by Che boludo! at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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