Senate Backs Away From Employer Gag Bill

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Article by J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s Largest Business Lobby

SB 519 gets sent back to committee, indicating lack of support. AOI initiated its most intense grassroots efforts of the 2009 Session this week on SB 519, also known as the “Employer Gag Bill.”  SB 519 makes it illegal for employers to hold mandatory meetings with employees and discuss issues including unionization of the workplace, the impact of pending legislation, the impact of a potential ballot measure, or other political or religious matters.  The bill would also curtail the use of employer communications that may discuss these issues.

In coordination with many of our business association friends and partners, AOI educated its members on the harmful effects of the legislation.  Several “Action Alerts” were issued to AOI members in the past week, as well as a “Call to Action” for the AOI Board of Directors.  (View AOI Action Alert and AOI Senate letter.)

The response from Oregon employers was overwhelming in opposition to the bill.  As a result, the Senate this week backed away from what appeared to be certain passage of SB 519.  While the bill was scheduled for a final Senate floor vote Thursday morning, the Senate voted instead to send the bill back to committee.  This type of action is typical when it is clear that a bill does not have enough votes for passage.

AOI, in conjunction with the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Nursery Association, Oregon Hospital Association and Oregon Restaurant Association led a very intense lobbying and grassroots campaign against the measure.  AOI marshaled opposition to SB 519 from the beginning of the legislative session, arguing that the bill was an unlawful infringement upon federal labor law and an unconstitutional infringement on employer free speech rights.  AOI also argued that such a law would make Oregon completely out of sync with every other state in burdening employers with speech and communications limitations.  Ultimately, it would be yet another blow to our state’s ability to attract and retain business.

SB 519 was sent to the Senate Rules Committee.  AOI will continue to be a leading voice in opposition to this anti-employer bill and will alert members to any more activity surrounding SB 519.

Article by J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s Largest Business Lobby