Employers and employees throughout Connecticut know that lawmakers are working on proposals at the State Capitol that could impact the future of their business and their jobs--from healthcare to taxes and energy to labor laws. With businesses doing all they can to keep their competitive edge and stay open, legislative issues really matter.

But if a proposal in the legislature known as the “captive audience” measure (HB 5460) were law, discussions about what’s going on in government activities in Hartford could be off-limits—in all workplaces in Connecticut.

That’s because HB 5460 restricts what employers can talk about with their employees at required company meetings. It specifically prohibits employers, in required staff meetings, from expressing their views on matters deemed “political.”

"Political" is defined by a laundry list of activities ranging from actual politics and political party affiliation to the decision to join any political, social, community or labor organization activity.  

Such broad definitions could block any open workplace talk about wages, healthcare and employee benefits and other terms and conditions of employment, including labor-union organizing. These are the bread-and-butter issues that employees are most worried about and want to know about. 

Such broad definitions could block open workplace talk about vital terms and conditions of employment that could be the subject of labor union organizing, such as wages, healthcare and employee benefits.

Also off-limits would be speaking appearances in employee meetings by state legislators themselves, because the bill broadly prohibits requiring meetings on "politics"--defined as "activities or affairs engaged in by government or a political party.”

That being the case, companies might no longer be able to gather employees together to meet with their local legislators about public policy affecting them and their workplaces.

The very nature of this proposal runs counter to what today's workforce needs--open channels of communication about the very subjects affecting their jobs, livelihoods, communities and local governments.

The captive audience proposal 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.

At the outset of the recession in 2008, a study found that 71% of employees “felt that their company should be communicating more about current economic problems.” (Weber Shandwick).  

Employees want more face-to-face communication to know what’s going on with their company, benefits and even what’s happening at the State Capitol. HB 5460 would be a significant roadblock to those communications and should be rejected.

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