One of Organized Labor’s two legislative priorities in 2022 – banning “captive audience” meetings that unions say are used to thwart organizing – won the latest vote in the Connecticut House of Representatives. .
The second, a fair bill, is destined to die without a vote in the House before the session reaches its constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight Wednesday.
The passage of Senate Bill 163, which extends state protections to employees’ free speech rights in the workplace, has sparked celebration by the state’s largest group of workers and condemnation by its largest professional association.
The battles between Connecticut’s AFL-CIO and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association are at their peak when Connecticut’s pro-worker legislature weighs bills that break new ground or bolster a tenuous beachhead.
Oregon is the only other state with a captive hearing law, a concept seen by the AFL-CIO as a safeguard against bullying and denounced by the AABC and other industry groups as illegally intrusive. in employer-employee relations.
The measure passed by 88 votes to 56, with eight Democrats joining 48 Republicans in opposition. One Republican, Rep. Tom Delnicki of South Windsor, voted in favour. The Senate voted 23-11 for passage last week.
Governor Ned Lamont is expected to sign the bill.
“The labor movement is extremely grateful to the representatives who voted to protect workers from employer intimidation and harassment during organizing drives,” said AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne. “No employer should be able to force a worker to attend a meeting to coerce their views on religion, politics or union organization. And no one should be scared at work for exercising their right to join a union.
Chris DiPentima, the CBIA chairman, said the Democratic-controlled legislature’s passage sounded deaf, given Connecticut’s reputation as a difficult and expensive place to do business.
“I am embarrassed for Connecticut, our amazing residents and businesses that the Legislature has approved this unconstitutional, anti-employer bill, as confirmed by our former Attorney General twice and in three separate court rulings,” he said. he declared.
The legal issues focus on whether state law conflicts with national labor relations law, which precludes states’ ability to regulate labor-management relations.
An earlier version was deemed by former CT Attorney General George Jepsen to be preempted by federal law.
William Tong, who succeeded him in 2019, then opined that Jepsen was correct that the 2018 proposal conflicted with federal law, but a revised version could pass legal scrutiny.
DiPentima has complained that the General Assembly is too respectful of workers.
“At a time when struggling small businesses are in desperate need of support, the General Assembly has moved to make it even harder to do business in Connecticut and continues to weaken the employer-employee relationship,” DiPentima said. “This relationship is key to driving innovation and making Connecticut businesses one of the safest and most productive in the world.”
On Friday evening, Rep. Steve Staffstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the 2022 bill was narrowly crafted to only prohibit employers from compelling attendance at meetings called to discuss matters of religion or gender. Politics.
Political issues include the decision to join or support a political party or labor organization.
“SB 163 makes it clear that certain employer activities are also not prohibited,” Staffstrom said. “These include communications required by law, communications necessary for employees to perform their duties, and certain communications in higher education institutions and occasional communications.”
State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, called the bill “a tool to level the playing field.”
“It’s not all employers, but there are some bad actors, and that’s one way to approach that,” she said.
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Fishbein admitted lawmakers heard stories of abuse during the public hearing, but none called for a new law. Each abuse previously mentioned was actionable under federal or state law, he said.
“And I said to them, ‘When you filed your complaint, what happened?’ And they said they didn’t do anything. They just wanted this legislation, this band-aid,” Fishbein said.
“We heard about politics. This policy is murky, this bill troubling. If the governor signs it, it becomes law. The pain is getting worse. Ultimately, messages to our businesses will not be transmitted to Connecticut. You’ll just be in trouble.
Wisconsin passed a captive hearing bill in 2009 before repealing it. Oregon’s bill has been the subject of a court battle, with the National Labor Relations Board saying it conflicts with federal labor laws.
Earlier this month, Jennifer Abruzzo, the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, announced that she would ask the Federal Labor Council to issue a ruling banning these corporate tactics nationwide.
“In workplaces across America, employers routinely hold mandatory meetings where employees are forced to listen to the employer’s speech regarding the exercise of their statutory rights at work, especially during organizing campaigns,” Abruzzo wrote in a memorandum.
Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.