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House makes Employer Gag Bill much worse

June 23, 2009

By J.L. Wilson
Association of Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

Senate Bill 519 will pass House today, new bill introduced to expand scope of “Gag Bill”.   The Oregon House of Representative is poised to pass SB 519 – “the Employer Gag Bill” – under direction from House Democratic leadership to pass the bill in its exact form without any business input.  Passage of SB 519  by the House, plus a signature from Governor Kulongoski, will mean the “Employer Gag Bill” will go into effect on January 1, 2010.  But in an unprecedented twist, new legislation was introduced this week to change SB 519 before it even passed the legislature.  House Bill 3507 was introduced this week to “fix” SB 519 before SB 519 has even been passed.

As has been typical of this legislative session, HB 3507 merely adds insult to injury by expanding the scope of religious, political or union matters that fall under the dictates of SB 519.  HB 3507 is expected to sail through the legislature in the waning days.

In its current form, SB 519 (and HB 3507) undermines an employer from requiring attendance at an organization’s meetings concerning the employer’s opinions on “religious or political matters.”  This also extends to the employer’s use of mandatory meetings to inform workers of the organization’s perspective on union organization; an employer right allowed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) for more than seventy years.

The restrictions imposed on employers by SB 519 (and HB 3507) not only interfere with necessary and productive workplace communications, but also restrict an organization’s ability to require employee attendance at certain meetings – even if such meetings were held during the workday and if employees were paid for their attendance.

AOI argued strongly that SB 519 is unconstitutional and saddles employers with the potential for devastating liability by creating a new protected class of employees.  AOI also argued that HB 3507 only makes SB 519 worse.

If SB 519 and HB 3507 become law, they would severely inhibit an employer’s ability to communicate with its workers and, most importantly, would diminish the competitiveness of Oregon employers.

By J.L. Wilson
Association of Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

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Discuss this article

John June 23, 2009

Sad to hear this is going to pass. At one point I thought it had been shelved. Hopefully it will be challanged in the courts if it passes.

Marvin McConoughey June 24, 2009

Stopping employers from pushing religious or political party views is defensible, in my opinion. Stopping employers from expressing views on unions is not defensible. Union membership deeply affects workers, the employer, and the relationship between them. Management has both a duty and a right to express its views on an issue that deeply affects management and the firm being managed. The current revisions, abuse legislative power and further weaken Oregon’s ability to attract and keep businesses. As now being pushed, this is a profoundly unwise bill that worsens our state’s competitive powers.

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