Under a bill the Labor Committee approved this week, employers will be severely limited in what they can talk about with their employees in required company meetings.

By an 8-3 vote, the committee approved HB 5460, also known as the captive audience bill. It prohibits employers, in required staff meetings, from discussing with their employees topics the state deems “political” and issues that would be covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

Adopting such broad definitions, however, would actually block any meaningful talk about wages, health care, employee benefits and other terms and conditions of employment, including labor union organizing.

Interferes with federal law

Today, these are just the kinds of bread-and-butter issues that employees and their families are most worried about and need to know about.  HB 5460 tramples on the right of employers to convey this needed information to their employees and makes it far less likely that employees will obtain appropriate information that could be vital to their interests.

The proposal also interferes with federal law that must be the ruling voice in workplace communications and activities. Scores of CBIA members wrote the Labor Committee to urge them to reject the proposal.

“Our town hall meetings [with employees] are where we discuss everything from company finances, our health benefit plans, to factors impacting our business,” wrote one manufacturing executive. “Allowing legislation like this to even get close to the finish line is not a step in the right direction.”

Anti-business

Since HB 5460 limits employer-employee communications about labor union organizing, it is preempted by federal law--the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—which has been the exclusive authority governing relations and communications between employers and labor unions in the workplace.

Lawmakers have said that jobs are their top priority. As HB 5460 goes to other committees for consideration, legislators should reject this and other bills with similar anti-employer bias. Just the fact that this proposal (along with those for mandatory paid time off and other measures) is even considered sends a strong message that Connecticut is unfriendly to businesses.

It’s also unfriendly to employees. With unemployment stuck at 9% and more than 100,000 people without a job in Connecticut, the Labor Committee would cut employees off from an important source of workplace information—their employers.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Kia Murrell at 860.244.1931 or kia.murrell@cbia.com.