News & Commentary

June 13, 2023

Lewit Gemeda

Lewit Gemeda is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News and Commentary, legislation in New York could ban captive audience meetings and membership in Florida’s teachers’ unions grows despite Governor DeSantis’ anti-labor policies. 

New legislation that would stop employers from requiring employees to attend meetings where the company states its views on religious or political issues is pending in New York. The bill includes the choice to join a labor organization as one of the prohibited issues. The bill, which has passed the NY state legislature, will head to Gov. Hochul’s desk for signature. This bill is part of ongoing efforts by labor unions to stop “captive audience meetings” that are held by employers to depress labor organizing. Other states such as Connecticut, Oregon and Minnesota have passed similar laws. However, these laws face legal challenges that argue that the law is unconstitutional and preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. Captive audience meetings also face scrutiny from the NLRB. In an April 2022 memo, the NLRB general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, said that mandatory meetings violate federal labor law. Consequently, NLRB prosecutors asked the board to hold that captive audience meetings are illegal in a case involving Cemex Construction Materials Pacific.

The Florida Education Association has gained 5,000 members despite Governor DeSantis’ anti-union policies. In May, DeSantis pushed through a law that limited the ability of public employee unions to automatically collect dues from union members’ paychecks. The police and firefighters’ unions, who are supporters of DeSantis, were exempt from these measures. After the provisions went into effect, the impacted unions were concerned their membership would drop as they struggled to have members give their bank account information so that the union could manually collect dues. However, the opposite has occurred, and the Florida Education Association has seen its membership grow over the last month as non-union teachers, alarmed by DeSantis’ attacks on minority groups, have sought union membership. “We have people coming in who are saying, ‘Hey, how do I join the union? I want to join the union,’” said Andrew Spar, President of Florida Education Association. “Teachers are saying ‘I can’t believe what’s happening in the state of Florida; we need to have a voice. How can I get involved in the union?’”

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