Connecticut state legislators are considering a bill to outlaw group meetings by employers to discuss a variety of matters including the issue of union representation. “An Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings,” HB5473, would allow workers to file a lawsuit to challenge discipline for not attending a mandatory employer meeting where union issues are discussed. As introduced, the bill states:
no employer, or agent, representative or designee of such employer, shall require an employee to attend an employer-sponsored meeting with the employer or its agent, representative or designee, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning political or religious matters, except that an employer or its agent, representative or designee may communicate to an employee any information concerning political or religious matters that the employer is required by law to communicate, but only to the extent of such legal requirement.
“Political matters” include: “[e]lections for political office, political parties, legislation, regulation and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or labor organization….”
There is strong support for the notion that such a law would be preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, and possibly precluded by the First Amendment. The Connecticut Attorney General concluded just about as much back in 2011, the last time there was any momentum for such a proposal. Labor supporters, however, argue that the mandatory nature of such meetings are not speech, but rather conduct, subject to regulation under the NLRA.