Committee Strikes Blow to Employers’ Free Speech
The legislature’s Judiciary Committee this week approved a measure that will quiet the voice of employers, disadvantage employees, and hand labor unions a decided advantage—in Connecticut workplaces.
SB-365, the so-called captive audience proposal, strictly limits employer-employee communication in the workplace. The bill is top priority of labor unions and their supporters in the legislature.
Specifically, SB-365 (which was approved in a committee vote of 24-9) forbids employers from communicating with their employees at required company meetings about a variety of topics considered “political” by the legislature, including matters covered by a collective bargaining agreement such as wages, employee benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment, as well as government operations and politics.
Included in this wide swath of “political” topics are just the kind of bread-and-butter issues employees are worried about and need to know about, including the health of their companies and the status of their jobs and benefits.
It’s very odd that labor unions and some lawmakers are working to keep Connecticut employees and their families in the dark about these issues, especially now when jobs and the economy are in peril.
On the issues of talking with employees about labor-organizing issues, the Supreme Court has said that the National Labor Relations Act, whichgoverns workplace communications, explicitly reflects “a congressional intent to encourage free debate on issues dividing labor and management.” It’s a policy, said the Court, that favors “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate in labor disputes.”
That, however, will not be possible under a “captive audience” measure.
Hostile to businesses
Limiting employers’ right to talk openly with their employees is yet another signal that Connecticut is hostile to businesses. And that’s a very risky message to send when many companies are struggling to stay open and hold onto jobs here.
Proponents say that they want to encourage freedom in the workplace, but this proposal actually limits employees’ communication with the people who can provide the most direct and reliable source of information about their jobs and employee benefits—their employers.
In this time of great uncertainty, employers must be able to speak freely about issues affecting the workplace. CBIA urges lawmakers to reject SB-365 as bad for Connecticut workers, their employers, and our economy.
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