The delta between the legislature’s perception of good “jobs” policy and the reality of our disjointed, anti-business economic policies is growing every day. A bill debated last week at the State Capitol will have chilling ramifications on employee-employer relations and stifle job creation.
The so-called “Captive Audience” bill would prohibit meetings between and employer and their employees when the subject concerns an employer’s position on political or religious matters. And while the proponents argue that employees shouldn’t be forced to meetings to learn about their employer’s political views, the consequences could be devastating.
The bill would prevent a small manufacturing firm serving as a subcontractor in Connecticut’s defense industry from holding a meeting to discuss pending federal legislation affecting the business and asking employees to contact their Congressmen to urge support or opposition.
A very real life example of how this could be devastating can be found right here in Watertown. One of our community’s largest employers, the The Siemon Company, would not be permitted to have important meetings with their employees to talk with them about pending legislation which could hurt their business. I have received many emails from Siemon Company employees over the years who reached out to me to urge my support for or opposition to certain legislation because they knew it would impact their jobs. We shouldn’t discourage the Siemon Company from communicating with employees about this legislation, we should encourage it.
The “captive audience” bill is an explicit attempt to muzzle – if not outright eliminate – employer/employee speech. Such an extreme restriction of speech upsets the delicate balance between employers and employees created by the National Labor Relations Act and not only may be preempted by federal law, but may be a violation of the employer’s First Amendment rights.
Employer speech – like all speech – contributes to the marketplace of ideas and is protected by our Constitution. Tipping the balance to favor employees in such an extreme way, as this bill seeks to do, at the very least creates a hostile environment for Connecticut businesses and unreasonably restricts their ability to communicate, but may be patently unconstitutional as well.
The “Captive Audience” proposal is yet another bill in a string of proposals from Democrats that harm the state’s ability to grow private sector jobs— most recently Chief Executive magazine, once again, ranked Connecticut among the states least friendly to business. Governor Malloy and Democrats in the legislature can claim all they want that Connecticut is “open for business,” but actions speak louder than words. Our state is not looked upon favorably by those who create jobs.
Let’s change this perception.
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