Corporate Groups File Lawsuit Against Connecticut Law Banning Mandated Union Busting Meetings

  • Connecticut is the second state to ban ‘captive audience’ meetings
  • New lawsuit claims ban violates employers’ right to free speech
  • Comes as US labor agency urged to ban meetings

(Reuters) – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming that a Connecticut law barring employers from holding mandatory union meetings is unconstitutional and should be cancelled.

The groups in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut said the law passed earlier this year violates the companies’ right to free speech by preventing them from disseminating truthful information and expressing opinions on issues. important.

State law prohibits employers from sanctioning workers who refuse to attend workplace meetings “concerning religious or political matters,” including the decision to join a union.

So-called “captive audience meetings”, in which employers discuss the effects of unionization, are common in labor campaigns and are legal under the federal Labor Relations Act (NLRA). But many unions and worker advocates say employers use the meetings to discuss the potential negative impacts of union membership, giving them an unfair advantage by discouraging unionization.

Tuesday’s lawsuit claims that by limiting employers’ ability to provide union information, Connecticut’s law violates their rights to free speech and assembly under the US Constitution. The groups also claim the law is pre-empted by the NLRA.

The Chamber, America’s largest business lobby, was joined by the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Retail Federation, Associated Builders and Contractors and several Connecticut-based business groups.

The Connecticut Department of Labor and the Attorney General’s Office, which are named as defendants, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The only other state to ban meetings with a captive audience is Oregon, which did so in 2009. The National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA, challenged Oregon’s law in 2020, but a judge federal ruled that the agency lacked standing to sue.

In Chamber of Commerce v. Brown of 2008, the United States Supreme Court said that a California law prohibiting employers from using state funding “to aid, promote, or deter unionization” was preempted by the NLRA.

Glenn Spencer, the House’s senior vice president for employment policy, said in a statement that, like the law at issue in this case, Connecticut’s ban violates longstanding precedent regarding labor rights. employers’ freedom of expression.

“We will continue to uphold an employer’s right to share their opinions with their employees so they can make informed decisions,” Spencer said.

The lawsuit comes as the NLRB’s current general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, urges the five-member board to overturn an 80-year-old precedent allowing meetings with a captive audience. Abruzzo, an appointee for Democratic President Joe Biden, said in an April memo that the meetings discouraged employees from exercising their right to refrain from listening to union-busting messages.

The Abruzzo office in May filed a lawsuit alleging that Inc violated the NLRA by holding meetings with a captive audience at a New York warehouse that later became the company’s first to unionize. Amazon has denied any wrongdoing.

The case is Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Bartolomeo, US District Court for the District of Connecticut, No. 3:22-cv-01373.

For groups: Bryan Killian of Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Maurice Baskin by Littler Mendelson

For Connecticut: Not available

Read more:

Why the labor board wants to free ‘captive’ workers from bosses’ messages

NLRB takes second shot to overturn Oregon’s ‘captive public’ meeting law

Amazon captive staff meetings over unions are illegal, labor board official says

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Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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