NLRB Challenges Ban on Captive Audience Meetings
The board wants to make it easier for bosses in Oregon to stop an organizing effort
The National Labor Relations Board is trying to kill a law unique to Oregon that prohibits employers from forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, adding a state battle to its ferocious attacks on workers’ rights at the federal level.
Workers in Oregon can’t be fired, disciplined or penalized in any way for opting out of the captive-audience spiels intended to derail organizing drives with union-busting rhetoric and pressure tactics.
In a complaint filed Feb. 7 in U.S. District Court, the NLRB charges that federal law permitting the mandatory meetings trumps the 2009 Oregon statute, which also bars employers from forcing their religious and political views on workers.
The Board claims Oregon is violating employers’ free speech rights, the same rationale that business groups used in 2010 when they sued in federal court to block the law. The case was dismissed.
“The free-speech argument has always been absurd,” said Kail Zuschlag, assistant business manager of Salem Local 280 in Oregon’s capital city. “The law doesn’t do anything to stop employers from pushing their anti-union propaganda, it just protects workers from having to listen.”
Through case decisions and new rules, the NLRB has been on a tear undermining unions and workers’ rights nationwide, while fueling the worst instincts of private-sector employers.
Recent rulings allow employers to kick organizers out of public spaces and forbid union pins and apparel at work, shield corporations from responsibility for franchises that mistreat employees, ban certain informational pickets, take away the right of unions to communicate with members via employer email, and many other rollbacks.
“As if the Board’s rapid-fire agenda harming working people across the country weren’t enough, now they’re meddling in state affairs, going after a law that broke ground for workers’ rights,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. “We will be vigilant in standing with our members and all workers in Oregon and every other state where the NLRB interferes.”
Under federal law, the only time employers can’t hold mandatory meetings to discuss unions is within 24 hours of a union election.
Until then, the NLRB asserts, Oregon’s law conflicts with the intent of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act not to regulate “non-coercive employer speech about unions,” according to an Oregonian article about the complaint.
Last November, Board general counsel and career union-buster Peter Robb sent a letter asking Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to support the NLRB in nullifying the law. She refused.
IBEW leaders say Oregon’s stand for workers and the NLRB’s attacks demonstrate how much elections matter.
“We have a state government right now that has workers’ backs, but on a national level, our rights are endangered,” Zuschlag said. “How can the NLRB possibly have time to chip away at states’ rights when issues like wage theft and misclassification of workers are happening so blatantly? Is taking rights away from working Oregonians really part of the solution?”