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Captive Audience Captivates

by | May 12, 2011 12:38am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Labor, State Capitol

Hugh McQuaid photo A bill that prohibits employers from requiring their workers to attend meetings concerning views on politics and religion passed the House 78 to 65 after 11 hours of debate—an hour longer than the debate on the state budget.

Rep. Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski, D-Southington, said the measure will protect employees from discipline should they decide not to attend such a meeting where politics and religion are discussed.

“Nothing in this proposed legislation limits what an employer can say or who they can say it to,” Zalaski said.

But Republicans maintained it sends the wrong message to businesses in the state and offered up a number of hypothetical scenarios and amendments to prove their point.

Rep. John Rigby, R-Winsted, said that all of the testimony offered at the public hearing proved that businesses and organizations throughout the state were against the legislation.

The message the legislation sends to the business community in the state was a source of concern for many lawmakers, who saw it as another bill that would make Connecticut less attractive to businesses looking to relocate.

“What do you think this says? It says take your business elsewhere,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said. “We can’t say we are open to business and continue to do this.”

The so-called captive audience bill has been a perennial offering from the legislature’s Democratic majority and is supported by various labor unions in the state. Union leadership said it’s used as a tool by some employers to intimidate and threaten workers considering joining a union.

Eric Bailey, spokesman for AFT-CT said late Wednesday that the tactic was employed by William H. Backus Hospital in Norwich, to discourage nurses from voting to unionize. But this time those tactics didn’t work. The group of nurses voted 210-175 to support a union.

“Having a contract will give us a voice in the hospital so that we can be stronger advocates for our patients,” said Lisa Currier, an registered nurse in the operating room. “That’s why I voted in favor of a union.”

The election Wednesday was administered by the National Labor Relations Board. It means the nurses can now start negotiating their first contract with the hospital.

Cafero opined that Democrats were finally bringing the bill to the floor Wednesday because they have a governor who is likely to sign it.

But that didn’t explain the length of the debate over a bill that’s not considered a major public policy issue.

House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, admitted sometime Thursday morning that the debate had gone to an “extreme.”

“It’s obvious every question has been asked,” Sharkey said.

Sources say there was a misunderstanding between Cafero and Zalaski. Republicans thought the bill was never expected to come up for a vote. However, Democrats maintained no such agreement offered and the misunderstanding lent itself to the long Republican filibuster.

Plans to debate in-state tuition for undocumented students was next on the agenda, but at the last minute Democrats decided against forcing what was likely going to be an even longer debate. They adjourned around 1 a.m. Thursday morning amongst chant of “more bills.”

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(5) Archived Comments

posted by: ... | May 12, 2011  7:32am

...

So was this 11 hour debate really more about the issue of having workers go into meetings based upon political or religious topics? Or did the debate occur because it was brought up last minute and simply shocked parts of the legislature into a fury?

I would really have loved to hear their ‘scenarios’ on absolutely needing political conversations and religious conversations in the workplace. I thought the point of a business was to make money, not waste time at the water cooler.

posted by: JAM | May 12, 2011  8:41am

The point of this legislation is to pile more regulations onto business in a state that has had no job growth in 20 years.
Just another reason why Connecticut is not open for business.

posted by: skydogct | May 12, 2011  2:42pm

This bill will increase productivity. CEO’s will spend more time taking care of business, while minding their own and keeping their political and religious views to themselves where they belong. Workers go to work to work, not to pray or listen to anti-union propaganda.

posted by: OutOfOutrage | May 12, 2011  3:43pm

OutOfOutrage

Why can’t businesses understand that the GA knows what is best for them.  I mean from budgeting to productivity to policy and execution.  State government has clearly proven they are a model for businesses and should be trusted to force what is best upon us.  Why can’t they see that a unionized workforce and paid sick days are what is needed to boost productivity and put CT back in the black!!

posted by: CitizenCT | May 12, 2011  9:22pm

Bad, unnecessary legislation, by out of touch politicians.  Why should Pratt & Whitney not be able to have a meeting with its employees explaining what legislation on the JSF alternate engine means to the company and its employees?  Seems like a very reasonable political conversation to me.

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