NLRB Official Moves to Ban ‘Captive Audience’ Meetings

04.08.2022
National-Labor-Relations-Board sign
Issues & Policies

The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel is calling for the reversal of a long-standing decision that mandatory meetings concerning employee’s statutory labor rights do not violate federal law. 

Jennifer Abruzzo announced this week she will ask the board to find that it is an unfair labor practice for employers to require workers to attend pro-company meetings during union organizing efforts.

In an April 7 memo to all NLRB field offices, Abruzzo said the board incorrectly concluded that an employer does not violate the National Labor Relations Act by compelling employees to attend meetings about union representation. 

That NLRB decision dates back to a 1948 case in Georgia. 

“I believe that the NLRB case precedent, which has tolerated such meetings, is at odds with fundamental labor-law principles, our statutory language, and our congressional mandate,” Abruzzo wrote. 

Precedent

Abruzzo, who took over as general counsel in July, is asking the board to overturn long-standing precedent.

She also suggests in the future employers will have to make it clear with narrowly tailored language that attending the meetings are voluntary. 

Abruzzo, who took over as general counsel in July, is asking the board to overturn long-standing precedent.

Abruzzo said a formal brief will be submitted to the board in the near future. 

While the memorandum has no immediate impact on the law as it stands, the board will likely consider Abruzzo’s recommendations as they review upcoming cases. 

Local Impact 

The timing of the memo is, however, coincidental with pending legislation in Connecticut.  

“Abruzzo’s memo leaves no doubt that the subject of regulating captive audience meetings falls under the National Labor Relations Act,” said Eric Gjede, CBIA’s vice president of public policy.  

In recent decades many states’ legislators have attempted to regulate such meetings, often referred to as captive audience meetings.

“This leaves no doubt that the subject of regulating captive audience meetings falls under federal law.”  

CBIA’s Eric Gjede

In three of the four states, courts overruled state regulations, citing federal law preempts state law.

Connecticut lawmakers are trying to pass a similar bill that puts obstacles in the way for employers on a much broader scale. 

“This memo reinforces our argument that the state of Connecticut and the General Assembly have no business regulating these meetings and any effort to do so will be invalidated by the courts,” said Gjede.

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