Despite Free Speech Issues, Employer Gag Order Clears Committee
Issues & Policies
A key legislative committee this week approved a bill prohibiting employers from requiring employee attendance at any meeting where political matters are discussed.
The Judiciary Committee approved the measure April 2 on a 25-14 vote, with four Republicans joining all Democratic members in supporting the bill.
The problem, as CBIA highlighted on behalf of Connecticut businesses, is that HB 5473 defines political matters extremely broadly—including state regulations, legislation, candidates for elected office, and even workplace unionization.
The so-called “captive audience” measure even restricts employers from discussing their support for various civic, community, or fraternal organizations.
The bill even restricts employers from discussing their support for various civic, community, or fraternal organizations.
Lawmakers amended the bill before taking final action April 2 to allow companies to discuss legislation or regulations directly impacting the individual business.
This was a minor acknowledgement of the business community's concerns, yet the bill still accommodates organized labor's efforts to quash any perception of anti-union sentiment.
The legislation now goes to the state House.
Preempts Federal Labor Law
The committee approved the bill despite a similar effort in 2011 that ended when state Attorney General George Jepsen advised lawmakers that federal labor law preempted the measure.
That letter killed the 2011 bill, and no legislative committee has raised it since.
CBIA and our business allies lobbied hard against HB 5473, citing the 2011 Jepsen letter and a legal opinion from a former Clinton appointee to the National Labor Relations Board who said the bill ignores "several decades of federal law on employer free speech rights."
"Connecticut has little to gain, and much to lose, by joining a small minority of states seeking to battle the federal government over its regulation of labor relations matters," wrote Charles Cohen, who served on the NLRB from 1994 to 1996.
Connecticut has little to gain, and much to lose, by battling the federal government over its regulation of labor relations.
"Such a battle will lead to unnecessary legal costs and burdens on Connecticut."
Cohen also noted that previous attempts by states to override the National Labor Relations Act either failed or generated NLRB lawsuits against those states.
Why do state lawmakers want to prevent employers from meeting with their staff to discuss issues affecting the business and its employees?