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Labor Responds to U.S. Chamber Lawsuit Challenging Captive Audience Law

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Ed Hawthorne, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, made the following statement in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filing a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the recently passed captive audience law:

It’s sad, but not surprising, that the captive audience law that was recently enacted by the legislature with bipartisan support is now being challenged by corporate executives.

“All this law does is allow an employee the right to leave a meeting and return to work when the subject of the meeting is about the employers’ position on politics, religion, or union organizing. That’s it.

“Without the protection this law provides, a CEO or manager can order employees to leave their work to be told why they should be Protestants instead of Catholics or Democrats instead of Republicans. No employer should have the right to fire or discipline an employee who declines to attend such a meeting.

“Without this law, workers seeking to form a union would again be frequently subjected to coercive captive audience meetings. These are mandatory, closed-door meetings during work hours where workers are often threatened and harassed about their union support.

“Corporate CEOs have a long history in Connecticut of intimidating workers using captive audience meetings. A nurse at Backus Hospital in Norwich was put into a supply closet by a manager with their back to the door and berated about their union support. Workers at McDonald’s on I-95 have been forced to attend captive audience meetings since 2019. Their employer even illegally fired union supporters. Six workers at Dollar General in Barkhamsted were harassed by five anti-union consultants and three out-of-state executives in one-on-one and group captive audience meetings when they attempted to organize. Management fired one union supporter and threatened to permanently close the store if the workers voted for a union. These are just three of the scores of examples of Connecticut employers using their power to trample on employees’ First Amendment rights.

“Over the last several months, employers have been very outspoken about their frustration to hire and retain employees during the pandemic. It is therefore extremely disheartening that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its members would prefer to pursue legal action to silence the voices of workers and restore their right to coerce and intimidate them, rather than focus on improving wages and benefits, working conditions, access to affordable childcare and other factors that afford workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“This law simply helps level the playing field for working people in Connecticut and we will not go back.

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Click here to read Attorney General William Tong’s 2019 opinion that the captive audience proposal is not preempted under the NLRA.

Click here to hear from workers and organizers in their own words about captive audience meetings and why this law is important.