Connecticut AG kills union-backed meetings bill

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June 3, 2011

Connecticut

by David Godow

HARTFORD, Connecticut:

Labor allies of Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen are up in arms after he allegedly killed a bill strongly favored by the Connecticut AFL-CIO. The proposed statute, which passed the House two weeks ago, would have barred businesses from requiring employees to attend meetings called to address "religious or political matters." Jepsen, who had previously vetted the bill during the House debate on it, reversed his position after "further research" found that the law was likely pre-empted by the federal National Labor Relations Act. Sen. Edith G. Prague, the co-chairman of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, subsequently announced that the Senate would not further consider the measure.

The controversial proposal was strongly supported by labor unions, who argued it would keep employers from exerting overt political influence on their employees. Proponents also note that the bill would allow workers to more easily unionize without fear of retaliation. Employers counter that the bill would unduly muzzle communication between owners and workers, adding that the law could potentially affect issues vital to the operation of the business.

Jepsen's abrupt switch in position came as a surprise to the bill's supporters. State Rep. Zeke Zalaski, who ushered the bill through the House on the strength of Jepsen's earlier endorsement, ruefully noted that he "gave [the bill] 11 hours" of debate. In response, Jepsen noted that his original opinion was not formal legal advice.

Though Connecticut unions have promised to continue the fight on the bill, it is uncertain whether any further progress can be made given the weight of the AG's latest intervention.

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