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Latest News - March 2010

March 16, 2010
Unions Want Change to ‘captive audience’rules
Author: Bob Schaper
Source: WKOWTV


MADISON (WKOW) - If you want to avoid an argument they say you should never talk about politics or religion. But now there's a proposal at the statehouse to ban bosses from making you hear their views on those subjects.

This bill has special importance to labor unions and its organizing efforts. Right now, workers can be forced to sit through meetings where management gives its view on forming a union. But if the unions have their way... Attending those meetings would become strictly voluntary.

Most of today's testimony came from labor leaders who said non-union companies routinely hold mandatory anti-union meetings when workers try to organize. If the bill passes workers could skip those meetings.

"This is just another way to intimidate the rest of the employees," said Fred Gegare, president of Teamsters Joint Council 39.

One labor leader said if a manager held a meeting on religion or the war in Iraq everybody would be outraged.

"But when you suddenly throw the name union on it, now we're allowed to do it," he said.

Some workers testified about managers trying to talk them out of forming a union.

"They compared the union to a crack addict," said one.

But Jonathan Swain, an attorney who represents employers, says states can't ban captive audience meetings.

"That's the purview of the federal government," he said.

Swain said many of the horror stories told by workers are already illegal.

"Congress created this balance of speech between the employee and the employer."

But Sen. Robert Wirch disagreed.

"We have a balance of speech here today," he said. "We have people who can talk for or against legislation. You're talking about a captive audience where there's only one side."

Oregon is the only state with a similar law. Sen. Glen Grothman questioned the wisdom of leading the country in what he called an anti-business law.

"There's a concern raised here that this bill will not have any effect or at least be subject to litigation."





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