Rigby says ‘Captive Audience’ legislation is bad for business
HARTFORD — State Rep. John Rigby (R-63) said this week that he opposes legislation recently passed in the state House of Representatives that limits the ability of employers to call meetings regarding “political” issues.Rigby led the debate for Republicans last week against H.B. 5460, An Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings, which he said would limit freedom of speech for employers. Debate on the measure lasted 11 hours.The so-called “Captive Audience” bill would prohibit meetings when the subject concerns an employee’s position on political matters. And under the bill’s provisions, employees who claim to have been required to attend such a meeting can file suit against an employer within 90 days of an alleged violation.“The real objective of the bill is, if there is an attempt to unionize at a company, the law would prohibit company owners to hold a meeting and require employees to attend,” Rigby said, adding that he thinks the language of the legislation goes too far.“If you’re Alcoa-Howmet and you want to have a mandatory meeting regarding a blood drive, you won’t be able to do that.”Employers would not be able to discipline employees who refuse to attend meetings in which their political or religious beliefs are discussed.The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski, led the debate in support of the legislation and told fellow members that he had lived through situations in which employers required meetings covering personal politics. He said employers should not be allowed to force their opinions upon workers if those opinions are not related to the job. Supporters of the bill added that it protects the rights of workers to have their own opinions.Though the legislation passed by a vote of 78 to 65 in the House, Rigby said he doesn’t believe there are enough votes in the Senate to make it law, and he does not know if Gov. Dannel Malloy supports the legislation. “I don’t think everyone’s sure what the governor would do with this measure.”Rigby said he opposes any bill that makes it harder to do business in Connecticut, and noted that he also opposes legislation taken up this week that would require employers to offer paid sick leave.“Day in and day out members of this Legislature chip away at businesses in this state, almost treating them as if they are an enemy,” Rigby said. “It’s simple — businesses provide jobs, and the men and women of this state rely on those jobs to support themselves and their families. Given this state’s unemployment rate, this Legislature should do everything it can to make life easier for employers.”Oregon and Wisconsin have passed “Captive Audience” legislation, but the Wisconsin law was ultimately declared unconstitutional.