Businesses Fight Anti-Free Speech Proposal

02.11.2011
Issues & Policies

Don’t put a wedge between employees and employers by closing the open communication that fosters good will, good decisions and a stronger economy. That’s the message Connecticut employers sent to the legislature’s Labor Committee this week as it considers a bill to quash workplace communications.

CBIA testified before the committee this week to oppose HB-5460, which would severely restrict what employers can talk about with their employees in required company meetings.

HB-5460 prohibits employers, in required staff meetings, from discussing with their employees matters deemed “political,” and issues that would be covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Such broad definitions, however, would block any talk about wages, health care and employee benefits and other terms and conditions of employment, including labor-union organizing.

These are just the kind of bread-and-butter issues that employees are most worried about and need to know about. 

Open communications

What the lawmakers don’t understand, say employers, is how valuable the open communication in these company meetings is to everyone involved.

“We openly share and discuss information and issues affecting our business and our state,” says one CEO of a small manufacturing company. “Because of this, many of our employees are engaged in the process and therefore more productive.”

HB-5460 tramples on the right of employers to convey needed information to their employees and makes it far less likely that employees will obtain information that could be vital to their interests.

That is not a very healthy idea, say Connecticut employers.

 “Our employees, both union and non-union, enjoy getting updates on the company, how we are doing and plans for the future,” says a director of operations at a Connecticut manufacturing facility.  “These meetings generate ideas that ultimately help us be more competitive, and that benefits all employees.

“How is that a bad thing?”

Conflicts

It also interferes with federal law that must be the ruling voice in workplace communications and activities. Since HB-5460 limits employer-employee communications about labor union organizing, it is preempted by federal law. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has long been held to be the exclusive authority governing relations and communications between employers and labor unions in the workplace.

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