President Biden’s nomination to lead the National Labor Review Board might just have been molded out of clay and brought to life by union leaders across the country, because National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo continues to surpass expectations. General Counsel Abruzzo has issued a stunning and groundbreaking memo calling for the end of mandatory anti-union meetings by bosses.

Right now if you try to unionize your workplace there is a good chance that your boss hosts a mandatory anti-union meeting hosted by management and featuring a high-paid consultant that attempts to talk down to workers to explain why unions are bad. A lawyer getting paid hundreds of dollars an hour explains that your workplace is a “family” and that the best thing for you and the company would be if you didn’t have a union, all while your boss makes dozens to thousands of times more money than you do a year. These “captive audience” meetings, which are nothing more than propaganda and are often full of vague lies, are so popular that nearly 90% of employers who are facing union drives made their workers attend them according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The Kansas City Labor Beacon has written widely about the issue of mandatory union meetings. Workers in places like Amazon, Starbucks, REI, and even construction shops around town have been forced into these meetings. Sometimes the meetings involve workers being individually interrogated and filled with anti-union talking points by a team of lawyers and corporate managers in order to fill them with fear and give them the illusion that the company has more power over them. If a worker fails to go to a mandatory captive audience meeting or leaves it early, they can be fired or disciplined. If a worker slips up and indicates support for the union in one of these meetings, a boss can just decide to fire them. The Economic Policy Institute has found that workers being discharged for pro-union activity has risen recently.

“Workers are typically subject to a significant number of captive audiences,” Abruzzo said. Even if employers don’t make illegal statements during the meetings, “it does have a coercive impact” on the workers who are forced to attend the meetings.

“Workers don’t feel that they can leave (the meetings), even though they have the right to refrain from listening to speech — just as much as they have the right to listen to it — because of the very real fear of retaliation,” Abruzzo said. “What we really are trying to do is prevent that implicit threat, if not explicit, and the fear that it inspires on these economically dependent employees, which I consider to be the epitome of coercion.”

In the memo, titled “The Right to Refrain from Captive Audience and other Mandatory Meetings”, Abruzzo went on to say: “In workplaces across America, employers routinely hold mandatory meetings in which employees are forced to listen to employer speech concerning the exercise of their statutory labor rights, especially during organizing campaigns. As I explain below, those meetings inherently involve an unlawful threat that employees will be disciplined or suffer other reprisals if they exercise their protected right not to listen to such speech. I believe that the NLRB case precedent, which has tolerated such meetings, is at odds with fundamental labor-law principles, our statutory language, and our congressional mandate. Based thereon, I plan to urge the Board to reconsider such precedent and find mandatory meetings of this sort unlawful.”

The memo goes on to say: “Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act promises employees the right to engage in—and to refrain from engaging in—a wide range of protected activities at work. Section 8(a)(1) of the Act bars employers from interfering with employees’ choice of whether and how to exercise those rights. In carrying out its duty to ensure that employers do not unlawfully impair employee choice in that regard, the Board must keep in mind the basic “inequality of bargaining power” between individual employees and their employers, as well as employees’ economic dependence on their employers.”

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